A member of an Irvine synagogue arrived Wednesday morning to find a message expressing hate for Jews scrawled in red paint on the house of worship’s front wall.
The obscenity-laced graffiti was quickly painted over. But the fear and uneasiness remain for the 210 families of the Beth Jacob Congregation, days after a gunman killed 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Surveillance footage released by the Irvine Police Department shows a person in a hooded jacket stooping down to spray-paint the message, then leaving on a bicycle about 1:20 a.m.
In a news release, police officials said they have increased patrols at the city’s Jewish facilities and will “aggressively investigate this hate crime.”
“The idea of something like that happening in America and Irvine is unreal,” said Allen Berezovsky, president of Beth Jacob’s board. “My family immigrated here from the Soviet Union to escape such things … and to find it here in America, it’s scary and disturbing.”
The synagogue already has armed guards at prayer services. A grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will pay for better security cameras, higher gates and vehicle-stopping barriers, Berezovsky said.
Beth Jacob has been a target of anti-Semitism before. In April, Nicholas Rose was charged with attempted hate-crime threats for possessing anti-Semitic literature, including “kill lists” of Jewish people and a step-by-step guide to “killing my first Jew.” Also among Rose’s possessions were papers referencing Beth Jacob and two churches, according to Orange County prosecutors.
In a 2017 report, the Orange County Human Relations Commission found that hate crimes in the county had increased nearly 30% over the previous two years, with Jews making up 9% of the victims.
Berezovsky said he is not ready to tell his children, who are 6 and 9, about the defacement of their synagogue.
“It’s a difficult conversation to tell innocent kids that people hate us just because we’re Jewish,” Berezovsky said. “How do you explain that to a child?”
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