Residents near Temple Sinai synagogue immediately called the South Burlington Police Department after finding an anti-Semitic message spray-painted on a “Pedestrians crossing ahead” sign near the worship space on Saturday March 30.
“It’s troubling,” Rabbi David Edleson said. “We are aware that there are a rising number of incidents like this.”
The vandalized sign – partially illegible – read, “Jews [illegible word] ahead,” according to Edleson. South Burlington Police, as well as the city department of public works highway division, promptly responded to the call and cleaned the sign.
“It’s really hurtful to the synagogue membership,” Police Chief Shawn Burke said. “There’s no room for these acts of hate, bias in our community; it’s so disheartening.”
Indeed, with horrific events like the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pa., last fall and last month’s Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand freshly in mind, South Burlington Police worked closely with Temple Sinai following the incident. Officers increased patrol frequency there especially during worship times and Hebrew school.
“I think if any police chief is saying that they’re not worried about some threat, whether it be at a place of religious worship or a school or other civic venue... then you’re not serving your community,” Burke said.
But Edleson and his congregation recognize this incident as part of a larger movement that targets minority groups.
“We understand we’re not the only targets,” he said, adding the congregation was moved by how the community came together after events like the Pittsburgh shooting. “We try to remember that we’re stronger together.”
The vandal has not been identified, but police are encouraging anyone with information about the incident to come forward. If the perpetrator is identified and deemed a good-fit for the restorative process – someone who is not violent or dangerous – that may be an effective course of action, Burke said.
“If they had to go through the restorative process and face the people that they hurt, maybe they’d begin to understand how incidents [like] in New Zealand or in Pittsburgh have a really, really profound impact on local communities,” he said.