Hate Crimes Target San Antonio’s Jewish Community

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A vandalized gate on the Northside. Photo by Winslow Swart.

A vandalized gate on the Northside. Photo by Winslow Swart.

The Rodfei Sholom and Oak Meadow communities in North Central San Antonio, home to many Jewish families, awoke Wednesday morning to disturbing images of hate and intolerance. Dozens of homes, vehicles, and public property were tagged with spray painted symbols and phrases of hate, including “KKK,” “Jews,” swastikas, and crude sexual images. The damage was centered around the Orthodox Synagogue Rodfei Sholom.

With more than 30 homes and vehicles vandalized, this is easily the largest scale of hate induced acts of vandalism to be seen in San Antonio in modern times and certainly the most extensive aimed at the Jewish community.

Neighbors were left wondering who carried out these criminal acts and what sparked this unprovoked attack on the Jewish community. The San Antonio Police Department has opened an investigation in the incidents.

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UPDATE at 5 p.m.:

State Sen. José Menéndez released a statement condemning the anti-Semitic graffiti and offering a $1,000 reward “for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons who committed this hate crime.”

He also called on the Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw to coordinate efforts and resources with the Texas Rangers and local authorities.

“This is not merely graffiti, this is an orchestrated effort to try to intimidate an entire community of people based on their religious beliefs and we cannot stand for it. It is not enough to just be offended or to condemn these actions, we need to marshal the resources of the local, state, and federal governments to bring the perpetrators of this hate crime to justice,” Menéndez stated.

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A swastika was spray painted on a Jewish memorial Wednesday morning. Photo by Winslow Swart.

A swastika was recently spray-painted on a Jewish memorial. Photo by Winslow Swart.

Even if the culprits are never brought to justice, the answers to those questions are bigger than any single group of vandals. Despite the lessons learned from slavery, the Holocaust, and the Civil Rights Movement, there are still those among us who harbor hate and resentment and take it out in acts of cowardice and destruction. This year we have seen church burnings in the South and dozens of racially and religiously motivated atrocities and acts of aggression and violence around the world. San Antonio is no exception.

But I’m proud to see the interfaith dialogues and highly inclusive social organizations and personal bonds in San Antonio. Today, we are reminded there is much work to be done in advancing the cultural competency of some of our neighbors. As a board member and long-time congregant of the Jewish orthodox synagogue Rodfei Sholom and the son of a holocaust survivor, I am saddened that ignorance and aggression of this magnitude exists in our City. The diversity and inclusivity classes I conduct for Bexar County employees champions all of our causes and these senseless acts of vandalism cuts right against the grain of our humanity.

Fortunately, we are a resilient people and shall return immediately to the task of making the world a better place for one another – of all ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds.

In addition to the breakthroughs in technology, earth science and medicine being made in Israel and benefitting the entire planet, is the concept of Tikun Olam, or repairing the world, an ideal and set of actions where we can all take part. Tikun Olam is a cornerstone ideal of the Jewish people and shared by our brothers and sisters of many faiths. It is a conscious approach towards restoring the world with peace, respect, tolerance and inclusivity and reversing trends that demonize others.

Let us all resolve to educate one another on the beauty of our respective cultures, deepen our appreciation for one another’s and drive darkness from our midst with light, not hate, as that only serves to increase the darkness.

The n word was spray painted on the entrance sign to the Orthodox synagogue Rodfei Sholom. Photo by Winslow Swart.

The n word was spray painted on the entrance sign to the Orthodox synagogue Rodfei Sholom. Photo by Winslow Swart.

*Featured/top image: A vandalized gate on the Northside. Photo by Winslow Swart.

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28 thoughts on “Hate Crimes Target San Antonio’s Jewish Community

  1. That’s bizarre that people even think about doing that much less take the time to do that. And particularly that many homes. But all this time I’ve thought of that neighborhood as being evangelical Baptist and Jehovah’s Witness because of those churches on Huebner at the north and there’s an evangelical one at the south. I didn’t even notice the synagogue off the road.. I guess they all walk. It’s probably some punk kids from high school that know some people who live there. The KKK and N make no sense. That’s what makes it so dumb and probably random at the houses. Hope someone has a home security camera at a garage.

  2. I am a resident of Oak Meadow and thank you for your coverage of this act. However, I take issue with the phrase “what sparked this seemingly unprovoked attack on the Jewish community.” *Seemingly*? Of course it was unprovoked. I can’t imagine what Rodfei Shalom, or any Jewish community, could possibly do to ‘provoke’ or justify such hate-filled vandalism. Such anti-semitism–or the racism exhibited in the other graffiti–is never about what the victim group has done; it stems from the prejudice and ignorance of the perpetrator. Even if, as the comments below and neighborhood gossip suggests, this the act of children, it doesn’t make it better. Nor does it make it less hurtful for my Jewish and black neighbors, or for my neighbors who are neither, but whose property was defaced. All it does is show that our culture and families are creating children who believe such acts are funny, or, worse, children who choose to hurt people because they different from them.

    • KCC,

      I completely agree with you. I know a page editor was trying to help even out a sentence and inserted that term without any malicious intent. I have asked for an update using different prose as the term was not in the original draft. I appreciate your sensitivity to this, it has been troubling me as well.

      cheers,

    • That’s my fault, KGC:
      When I was editing this piece for clarity, I used the word “seemingly” because the circumstances surrounding the assailants attack is unknown. I have redacted the word, because I see now that it gives the wrong impression.
      Thank you for your input. Always happy to discuss.
      Cheers,
      –Iris

      • Thanks, Winslow and Iris. I really appreciate your sensitivity and the fact that you took my comment seriously. All best to both.

  3. At the suggestion of a local rabbi, funds are being collected instead for the Jewish Federation, which helps families in need. The community advocates fighting darkness with light, and a donation can help provide that light. The link is with GoFundMe under the name of Never Again.

  4. An update: there is a site set up to receive donations by way of Go FundMe. It is called Never Again, and funds will go to the Jewish Federation which supports families in need. I was pleased to see that the graffiti has been cleaned up by the city.

  5. Thank you Winslow. It is sad to hear of a story like this in San Antonio which so many of us celebrate as an embracing and tolerant community. But, sadly, it does highlight a growing trend globally.
    The World Affairs Council of San Antonio holds its first distinguished lecture series program this year which will take place at Temple Beth El from 6:00- 7:30 with a lecture by Rabbi Steven Gutow on “Anti-Semitism: the resurgence of scapegoating.” Open dialogue on sensitive topics like these are important pillars to countering hatred and intolerance.

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