Temple Israel, Minnesota’s largest synagogue, was plastered with graffiti Tuesday night, though Jewish religious leaders say the vandalism doesn’t immediately appear to be hate-related.
Purple spray-painted letters were left on all sides of the historic stone structure, including the synagogue’s large stately columns which front Hennepin Avenue in Uptown Minneapolis. The vandalism comes amid the celebration of Passover, a holy period for Jews which began Monday evening and ends on April 2.
“The timing of this does not go unnoticed for the Jewish community, whether or not that was the intent of the person who vandalized our building,” said Temple Israel senior rabbi Marcia Zimmerman. “It jogs the historic memory of vandalism throughout the world in the Jewish community...So I think that’s the piece we take notice of without even knowing the intent of the person who did this.”
Security cameras are located throughout the synagogue property and show a man vandalizing the temple sometime before midnight, said Zimmerman. Minneapolis police were called Wednesday to investigate the incident, she said. The synagogue planned to clean off the graffiti by the end of Wednesday.
Zimmerman said it’s particularly upsetting to see the synagogue’s grand columns marred with spray paint. Built in 1928, the synagogue is among the first in the Twin Cities and has close to 6,000 attendees — considered the largest Jewish temple in the state, Zimmerman said.
“It’s in purple and across the front pillars... which is our historic entrance,” said Zimmerman, adding that near the doors there’s a quote from Isaiah welcoming all to worship at the temple: “May this house be a house of prayer for all peoples.”
“There’s nothing obvious (hate-related),” she said. “There are letters, and it’s unclear exactly what they mean...Nothing like a swastika or anything that’s obviously anti-Semitic at this point.”
The temple has been the target of graffiti vandalism in the past along with other nearby structures in the neighborhood. And at that time, it did not appear to be hate-related, Zimmerman said.
The synagogue, which has already held two large traditional Seder meal ceremonies to mark Passover this year, does not intend to deviate from its plan to celebrate the remaining days of the Jewish holy period, with Shabbat services to be held Friday.
“We stand strong in our Jewish traditions, our Jewish beliefs and our Jewish work for social justice,” Zimmerman said.
“To arrive this morning, during this festival of Passover and to see the vandalism is, at the least, upsetting. We want to get to the bottom of it.”