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