update deskAntisemitism

‘Generally, we feel very safe in Kansas,’ says rabbi of vandalized Topeka temple

Someone spray-painted “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine” on the Reform congregation Temple Beth Sholom.

FBI logo. Credit: Dzelat/Shutterstock.
FBI logo. Credit: Dzelat/Shutterstock.

An antisemitic vandal spray-painted “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine” on a driveway leading up to the only synagogue in Topeka, Kan., the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The Topeka Police Department and the FBI are investigating the vandalism at Temple Beth Sholom, a Reform synagogue that formed in 1920 when two congregations, founded in 1905 and 1915, joined, per the synagogue website. The congregation consists of more than 110 families.

“Temple Beth Sholom is in the mainstream of Reform Judaism and is warm to Jewish tradition,” per the synagogue website.

Rabbi Samuel Stern, the temple’s religious leader who recently visited Israel, told JNS that outside of Students for Justice in Palestine events at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., “there has not been a rise in antisemitic incidents.”

“Generally, we feel very safe in Kansas,” he added. “It helps that we have great relationships with our law-enforcement partners at every level, and we are working with them to keep Temple Beth Sholom operating for all our congregants.”

On Feb. 22, the synagogue posted on its Facebook page that it had discovered “graffiti at the entrance of our property, featuring a pro-Palestinian message.”

“Obviously, targeting American Jews for the actions of the Israeli government is antisemitism. They have targeted other areas in Topeka, and all these incidents are under investigation by the Topeka Police Department and FBI,” according to the post. “It was immediately reported to the relevant authorities, and we have received reassurance from our law enforcement partners that there are no relevant threats to our congregation at this time.”

The Topeka Public Works department removed the graffiti. “It is still my intention to hold our service and for the life of the congregation to proceed as usual,” Stern wrote in the post, which was also signed by Frayna Scrinopskie, president of the synagogue board.

“Our synagogue has been here since the late 19th century,” the rabbi told the Capital-Journal. “We’ve been in Topeka basically as long as anybody has been in Topeka. We believe that this is a place where people are open-minded and generous in spirit. We believe that our neighbors don’t agree with this sort of thing.”

Ty Masterson, president of the state Senate, and Dan Hawkins, speaker of the House—both Republicans—stated that it is “deeply troubling to see the hate and intolerance of the antisemitic vandalism that occurred at a place of worship in our state’s capital,” per the Capital-Journal.

“The rot of antisemitism has no place in Kansas, and we proudly stand with the Jewish community against this hateful act,” they added.

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