An Irvine synagogue was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti overnight, just days after the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue that claimed 11 lives.
Employees arriving for work spotted the vandalism about 9 Wednesday morning at Beth Jacob Synagogue, 3900 Michelson Drive.
“We think it happened overnight,” said Kim Mohr of the Irvine Police Department.
The vandal spray-painted “(Expletive) Jews” on the synagogue, said Rabbi Yisroel Ciner.
“Members of the Christian, Mormon and Muslim communities reached out to me after the horrific incident in Pittsburgh offering their support and solidarity,” Ciner told City News Service. “We are saddened that such hate exists everywhere and even in our backyard.”
Irvine police “are fully engaged in trying to find the perpetrator and to ensure the safety of all groups,” Ciner said, adding, “We’re a resilient group and we’re not going to let some fanatic affect us.”
Police were analyzing grainy surveillance video footage that shows someone jumping or throwing something over a fence on the synagogue property, Mohr said. So far, the image isn’t clear enough to provide a suspect description, she said.
Irvine Mayor Don Wagner said the vandalism, and a “recent incident at Irvine Valley College, are both enraging and unacceptable. They will not go unchallenged by the good people of Irvine. An attack on anyone in Irvine of any faith is an attack on us all.”
Wagner added that the attacks in Irvine, coupled with the murders at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, “remind us that historical prejudices remain alive in evil people. It is for the good to work tirelessly against them, their hatred, and their evil. Anti-Semitism cannot be acceptable in this country; it will not be ignored in Irvine.”
The founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles condemned the desecration of the Beth Jacob synagogue.
“Following in the footsteps of the great tragedy that occurred in Pittsburgh, this is another indication that the haters and bigots amongst us have infected our country,” Rabbi Marvin Hier said. “Only a sick person and hater would have the nerve to paint a swastika on a synagogue days after the tragedy in Pittsburgh.”
Allison Edwards, CEO of the nonprofit group OC Human Relations, encouraged citizens to report hate crimes and incidents.
“We really keep encouraging people to not let these things go unchecked or unreported,” she said. “We continue to urge people to report crimes that are hate motivated — it’s the best way to reach out to communities and support them and to take action in the face of hate.”
The Irvine PD, in a prepared statement, said “Chief (Mike) Hamel and the men and women of the Irvine Police Department denounce, in the strongest terms, this type of hateful act. We are committed to our mission, working in partnership with the community to preserving the peace.”
Anyone with information about the vandalism was asked to call investigators at (949) 724-7200.
The number of hate crimes in the region jumped last year, continuing a trend that began in 2015, according to the OC Human Relations annual report.
Last year, Muslims were the most targeted ethnic group at 13 percent, with Jews the second most targeted at 9 percent.
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