Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Community rallies around Jewish congregation after swastikas found painted on synagogue

Kesher Israel Congregation in Uptown Harrisburg

Members of the Kesher Israel Congregation heading to morning services on Monday were met with a disturbing surprise.

Swastikas had been painted on the front of their synagogue, said Rabbi Elisha Friedman.

“My security antenna went up,” he said. “People were worried about safety.”

Friedman quickly called the police. Local officers, state troopers and the attorney general came to the synagogue, he said.

Finding no sign of a threat to safety, Kesher Israel could continue services, and by the afternoon they had power-washed off the symbols of hate.

According to Friedman, the only other time something similar happened to their congregation was about 30 years ago.

By Tuesday morning, over 30 local people and organizations expressed their support for Kesher Israel and denounced acts of hatred in the community.

“An attack on one Jewish institution is an attack on all Jewish institutions, and we are here for you as your neighbors and friends to fight anti-Semitism wherever it exists and to support you at this difficult time,” said Rabbi Peter Kessler and President Rob Teplitz of Temple Ohev Sholom on N. Front Street in their statement.

Other Jewish leaders in Harrisburg stepped up to reiterate the sense that what happens to one congregation affects them all.

Rabbi Arianna Capptauber of Beth El Temple explained how the swastika personally impacts her, being the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor.

“I feel personally the sting of the swastika, as it represents the deadly hatred that killed many members of my family,” she said. “Yet I will not cower in the face of this weaponized symbol, for I know that we are held by a resilient Jewish community and a caring community of allies here in Harrisburg.”

Friedman said many people have been calling and reaching out to him to ask how his congregation is doing and to express their solidarity.

“It’s encouraging,” he said. “There’s this huge outpouring. It was every part of our community and all types of different religions in Harrisburg.”

Local churches, mosques and temples reached out to support the Jewish faith community, as well.

“We at Pine Street Presbyterian Church condemn this criminal act of hatred directed towards our Jewish brothers and sisters,” said Pastor Russell C. Sullivan Jr., in a statement. “With the people of Kesher Israel Synagogue and the Jewish community, we stand in solidarity and support.”

The Harrisburg Mayor’s Interfaith Advisory Council will hold a vigil outside of Kesher Israel’s synagogue at 2500 N. 3rd St. on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Local government, law enforcement and faith leaders will speak in support of the Jewish community.

“The person was intending to make us feel unwelcome and like a small minority in the community, but it backfired and the opposite impression was given,” Friedman said.

Kesher Israel is located at 2500 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information on their congregation, visit their website.

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