Bias crime on the rise in the Seattle region
When members of the Temple De Hirsch Sinai were greeted Friday morning with a bias crime, spray-painted across their place of worship, Daniel Weiner was not shocked.
“I’m incredibly troubled and angered and frustrated by that graffiti, but unfortunately I am not surprised by the increase in anti-Semitic attacks and incidents within our community and around the country,” Weiner said.
“We all kind of felt, and held our breath, that it was a matter of time,” he said.
Weiner is Senior Rabbi at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. The temple was targeted with graffiti Friday. “Holocaust is Fake History,” it read.
In his 16 years at the temple, Weiner has seen a few biased incidents. But nothing like the recent rise in anti-Semitic crimes, starting with a “disturbing” phone call the temple received shortly after the presidential election. The graffiti is merely the latest incident Weiner has noticed.
At first sight of the graffiti on Friday, a neighbor covered the offensive display with a sheet; the words “Love Wins” written on it. But Weiner chose to leave the graffiti up for one day in public view, to show that anti-Semitism is still alive in modern times.
“I think there is a tone that has been set in our nation that empowers those who previously were quietly shamed into the margins, and now they feel newly empowered, and feel they have new license to express these toxic views – perhaps out of ethnic pride, but certainly out of a desire to bully the most vulnerable in our society,” Weiner said.
“I certainly do not attribute a causation, but I do see a correlation between the uptick in these events and what has happened over the past few months,” he said.
Seattle police have increased their presence around the temple following Friday’s incident, but the caution extends beyond Capitol Hill. They have done the same for a local mosque following other, recent threats to the Islamic community.
“There’s an increase in reporting (of bias crime),” said Seattle’s Assistant Police Chief Robert Merner.
Bias crime in the Seattle region
The tone Weiner previously referred to is not just felt at the Capitol Hill temple. Jewish and Islamic communities have been targeted in the Seattle region, in addition to sentiments opposed to minorities.
• Anti-Semitic graffiti was reported in Ballard in late February.
• A Sikh man was shot in a drive-by incident in Kent. The shooter yelled, “go back to your own country” as he fired.
• A Jewish center on Mercer Island received a bomb threat in February.
• Multiple incidents of neo-Nazi posters posted around the University of Washington.
• A glass bottle was thrown at the head of a Muslim woman at UW in November 2016.
• The sign at a Redmond mosque was vandalized twice in 2016.
• An arsonist struck a Bellevue mosque in January (though police did not believe it was a hate crime).
• The future site of a mosque in Mukilteo was the target of anti-Islamic fliers in 2016.
• A Seattle man made violent threats against the Idris Mosque in Seattle in 2016.
• Neo-Nazis and skinheads threatened to march on Capitol Hill and Ballard in late 2015. They never showed after word of the march was reported.
Bellevue police reported in January that hate crimes in their city are up 50 percent — specifically vandalism. The University of Washington’s chief of police has also noted a recent uptick in neo-Nazi posts around campus, specifically after the last presidential election.
According to the Seattle police’s bias crimes dashboard, there has been a rise in crimes based on religion in recent years — mostly reported in the north and west areas of the city. The only year when reports of such crimes dropped was in 2014. Otherwise, reports of crimes targeting religion have generally trended up since 2012.
• 2017: 12 reports so far
• 2016: 25 reports
• 2015: 23 reports
• 2014: 8 reports
• 2013: 19 reports
• 2012: 13 reports
In the face of all this, Weiner said that his temple will be taking security precautions and focus on the safety of its members.
“But at the same time, we strongly encourage our members to not let these acts of domestic terror deter us from practicing our religion or from enjoying the blessings and opportunities that America has granted all of us, particularly those in minority populations,” he said.