After confirming that its synagogues in Alabama had been breached, Jewish Concern & Outreach, a Jewish advocacy organization, has called in the FBI.
JOE Eisenberg, M.D., director of the group, wrote in a blog post that several pro-hate speech videos made on computer screens in the buildings “were defaced with swastikas, attacks, and racist and sexist slurs,” and “literal jubilation in the gutters.”
“It appears at least one person went to the roof,” he added.
The news that 6 senior rabbis had been defaced with anti-Semitic and other slogans came after weeks of discussions between the Birmingham, Ala., area’s Jewish community and a community liaison in which officials stressed a need to consider how faith communities and other institutions can counter these figures.
Those discussions culminated in a statement released Monday from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Alabama, which noted that there had been attacks on synagogues and religious sites in the region in the first half of the year — “just one month after six senior rabbis were defaced by a man they believed had confessed to having found hate and posted them in his Web site.
“This activity can and should be stopped,” it added.
Critics and Jewish community leaders have been angered at the advance of anti-Semitic tactics by some Jewish organizations, such as JDC, and have pointed to their upsurge as a factor in the assassination of a Jewish clergyman by a white supremacist two years ago.
On Sept. 13, after announcing that 6 senior rabbis had been attacked and defaced, JDC Executive Director Mark Potok said: “These things are very unsettling and disturbing. We cannot take this lightly.”
Manny Goldberg, the executive director of Birmingham’s Jewish United Fund, said he felt “disturbed” that some Jewish institutions in the area had been breached.
A focus on faith communities since the deaths of two of its major donors, Benjamin Netanyahu of the Netanyahu National Foundation and Seymour Melman of the Melman Museum, in April was meant to mirror the program to replace Netanyahu as prime minister in Israel, Goldberg said.
The survey of the concerns with the Jewish community and the FBI should give the appropriate resources to the officials in response to the threat, he said.
On Monday, JDC issued a statement announcing that it was working with Alabama’s Jewish community.
“We are in the midst of a delicate discussion about the effectiveness of prayer services for Jewish students at our main synagogues,” the statement read. “We’re seeking additional Jewish religious opportunities and resources to address these concerns. At this point, it is too early to say what the response will be, but we will be working toward such a response.”
A survey conducted in July found that a steady and statistically significant increase in incidents of vandalism, hate crimes and threats to Jewish-owned, non-profits and organizations since at least 2015.
Paula Shapiro, associate director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Muslims are among those targeted by vandalism and threatening actions, such as the vandalism of a small mosque in Birmingham in 2010.
She said that, since then, Muslims in the Birmingham area have felt the brunt of hate. She said she has yet to see another survey from the FBI on anti-Muslim sentiment, but suspects that the volume of attacks has increased after federal authorities re-examined a US soldier’s statements about his “lone wolf” motivation and concluded that the best and most effective way to counteract extremist attacks was through increased vigilance.
Since then, there have been several terror attacks, which the FBI said were carried out by an individual with no connection to one religion.