(I have been informed that much worse happened to another Jewish temple in St. Johns N.B.)
A swastika was scrawled on the doors of Fredericton’s Sgoolai Israel Synagogue during the overnight hours Sunday, the first such incident of vandalism in the synagogue’s 77-year history.
Rabbi Yosef Goldman said rather than protest the anti-Semitic act, he’s going to pray.
“My work here in Fredericton is always to teach people what Jewish people are all about and to remove any questions or ignorance,” Goldman said. “We don’t want it to turn into an endemic, but we also don’t want to overreact.”
An anti-Semitic slogan was written on a synagogue in St. John’s, N.L., last week. Goldman said he’s unsure if the two incidents are related.
He discovered the swastika on the synagogue’s front door when he arrived Monday morning. The swastika was traced in black marker and was surrounded by a black circle, about 20 centimetres in diameter.
Goldman notified the Anti-Defamation League and called the Fredericton Police Force, which is investigating the incident.
“Right now it’s a mischief to property damage, but obviously because of the symbol and where it was placed, it could also have a hidden message,” Sgt. Paul Battiste said Sunday.
Police are investigating the incident as a potential hate crime, he said, though that will only be determined through the course of the investigation.
“I’m certainly not coming out and saying it’s a hate crime, because you can’t say that until you figure out who the people were involved and what their intent was,” Battiste said.
“This is not something that’s typical in this city,” he said.
Though swastikas have been scrawled elsewhere in the city, it’s the first time one has been drawn on the synagogue.
He encouraged anyone with information about the vandalism to contact Fredericton police or Crime Stoppers.
Jon Goldberg, executive director of the Atlantic Jewish Council, said the two recent incidents are rare though not exclusive to synagogues.
“People write graffiti on churches, too,” he said.
Vandalism often goes unreported, though, with some people preferring to not give publicity to vandals, Goldberg said.
Goldman called drawing the swastika a cowardly act, but said he doesn’t think it’s part of a wider problem.
“We don’t know of any group that has an agenda against the Jews, definitely not in Fredericton,” he said.
“Fredericton is blessed with a lot of spirituality,” Goldman said. “We would like people to be aware that every person has a right to practise his or her religion in this country.”
Goldman said he intentionally neglected to take a photo of the swastika, and once police left the synagogue, he washed it away with acetone.