(CNN) — A synagogue in Seattle was vandalized with anti-Israel messages on Sunday, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Seattle police said in a statement Wednesday.
“This was a coordinated and focused attack,” said Chief Rabbi Daniel Weiner of the De Hirsch Sinai Temple on Capitol Hill, who believes the timing of the attack was no coincidence.
Footage from the De Hirsch Sinai Temple shows two people equipped with backpacks and paint vandalizing the facade of the temple’s old sanctuary, which no longer exists, leaving an open plaza in its place, Weiner told CNN. Temple leaders are currently working with the FBI and the Seattle Police Department to find the suspects.
Seattle police released video of the two suspects in a statement and are asking for the public’s help in identifying them.
The incident also occurs days before Yom Ha’atzmaut, the celebration of Israel’s independence, and less than a month before Jewish Heritage Month.
Cameras and fencing were installed six years ago when another incident of vandalism occurred in the same area of the temple. Vandals spray-painted “The Holocaust is a false story” several months after former President Donald Trump took office, CNN reported.
The anti-Semitic graffiti from this Sunday hung around for several days before it was covered up, according to Weiner.
“It is incredibly important that we in the community bear witness to the fact that not only do these things happen, but that there are people who, not only feel these things and have these views, but are willing to act in a criminal manner.” said.
Now, it’s been covered in paint and primer to make way for a redemptive mural done by local teen artists in an effort to sanctify the space, the same move they took six years ago, Weiner said.
“We are looking to do that again because what we hope to do is really transform what would otherwise just be an act of terror,” he said.
One of the positives, Weiner says, is the outpouring of support from civic and community leaders who have asserted that the Jewish community is accepted and supported in Seattle.
Mayor Bruce Harrel tweeted: “We will not tolerate antisemitism in Seattle; We must all speak out against this disgusting act of violence.”
While other temples in the area have experienced minor incidents, Temple De Hirsch Sinai says they experienced the brunt of Seattle’s anti-Semitism.
“We are the largest, most visible iconic and historic Jewish institution [en Seattle]Weiner said. “And certainly the most visible Jewish institution that remains in the urban core of the city.”
The community is resilient, he said, but his reaction to the incident is twofold.
“One is a sense of pride and resistance and not wanting those who are doing these things to achieve their goals, which is trying to silence us and intimidate us,” Weiner says. “But the other sentiment is that people feel that this is an uncomfortable confirmation of what we are learning and also experiencing in the broader culture, which is a significant rise in anti-Semitism.”
Anti-Semitism Grows Nationwide
In 2022, Seattle police reported 33 incidents of discrimination crimes directed against religious groups. More than 75% of those incidents were directed at the Jewish community.
Nationally, the Anti-Defamation League reported 3,697 anti-Semitic incidents across the United States in 2022, representing a 36% increase from 2021. Of those incidents, 589 occurred in Jewish institutions, the organization said. They also reported that this is the third annual record for hate incidents in five years.
“Unfortunately, [el antisemitismo] it persists and I don’t know if [el ataque] was met with surprise,” Regina Friedland, director of the American Jewish Committee in Seattle, told CNN. “I think many in the Jewish community want this event not to go unnoticed and for people to see that hate and how much more work we have to do as a community.”