The anti-Semites strike on Passover

April 10, 2020 • 1:15 pm

I occasionally hear from reader Stephen Listfield, a part-time rabbi. Today he sent me a note along with thirteen pictures, of which I show six below. His words are indented.

I’m a retired rabbi living in Atlanta.  I officiate part-time at a small congregation in Huntsville, AL; I am there for the  High Holidays and one weekend a month.  Mostly older people. They have zero full-time staff.  They do everything themselves, including all the prayers (except when I am there), all the food, all the maintenance, all the janitorial stuff.

Wednesday evening I conducted a Zoom Seder for the congregation.  On Thursday morning, a husband-and-wife minister couple drove by the synagogue and saw the array of “artwork” shown below.   Police are investigating.  No conclusions as yet.

Sending it along for whatever you might wish to make of it.

Happy Passover, for whatever you make or don’t make of the holiday.  (Quite irrelevant to the point of this message, but I say parenthetically that the supernatural part of the holiday — which, frankly, IS the essence of the holiday — is not my cup of tea.  But the message that Passover has come to universally represent, namely, the human right to freedom not only from slavery but (ideally) from every unhelpful constriction, fear, irrationality and neurosis. . . well, Passover can serve as a very powerful liberating message indeed.)

When I asked Stephen if I could reproduce his name, the name of his synagogue, and also show the pictures, he said “certainly” and added the following:

Some say don’t give publicity to the bastards.  Interestingly, and I know you’ll be interested in this, the entire disgusting mess was thoroughly cleaned within a couple of hours. . . largely via the volunteer help of several ministers and church laypeople who couldn’t come fast enough to express their solidarity and their tangible support.

That’s all great.

And yet I lean toward the opposite view: Let the oozing pus be exposed to some sunlight.  It might help disinfect some of humanity’s intractable and hateful germs.

Happy Passover, indeed!

55 thoughts on “The anti-Semites strike on Passover

  1. Stuff like this makes me feel like I should apologize to the victims and the universe at large for the worst aspects of humanity.

  2. It is sickening and deeply disturbing to see that, with time on their hands, all some people can think to do is deface a place of worship.I can’t understand the activity or the reason behind it. So awful.

  3. The FBI has to enhance their surveillance and infiltration of right-wing hate groups. This wont happen without Democrats winning the congress and presidency.

  4. That’s terrible. I wonder if people who do this are young guys with nothing else to do, and to which Jews are just a convenient target. Or are they people who’ve thought this through over years and are expressing a deep hatred? In short, who are the people that do this kind of thing?

  5. RE: the meaning of Passover being freedom from slavery …

    This is from the opera Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi, written in 1841. The scene is of the Hebrew slaves in captivity longing for their homeland and freedom. It became an unofficial anthem for the unification of Italy in the 1840s.

    In the world of opera, it is considered by many the most beautiful choral episode ever.

    In this clip, that which almost always happens, happened: it is so beautiful, and the audience is so grateful, they sing it twice.

    In addition to the marvelous music and singing, I love the faces.

    Bravo and brava for freedom.

  6. Given the trend over the past few years, it’s at least as likely that it was a far-left Jew who did that to create a fake hate incident.

    1. Very doubtful. Among many, many fake hate incidents in the last year far-left Jews were conspicuous by their absense. There were one or two such incidents where the perpetrators were Jewish teenagers. Frankly, I remember only one with a boy phoning diverse synagogues, but there may be more. If you know about any fake hate crime committed by far-left Jew I would be grateful for more information.

    1. At least, or so it appears, the man who has replaced Corbyn is cleaning up the British Labour Party of its anti-Semitic fringe.

      1. Well, Keir Starmer can’t do a worse job than Corbyn did. It comes to something when the Labour Party is the legitimate subject of an investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission over allegations of anti-Semitism.

  7. Unfortunately, it’s way too easy to say that it’s just “rigt wing”, “neo-Nazis”, or American Fascists. On very different occasions in many countries, slogans like “Jews, go back to ovens”, Jews to the gas”, and “Kill all Jews”, were shouted by supporters of BDS and by Antifa members. Left-wing organizations were marching together with Hamas and Hezbollah – both organizations openly stating that annihilation of Israel and all Jews is their ultimate goal. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasralla, even said that he would be happy for all Jews to gather in Israel, it would save Hezbollah the trouble to chase them all over the world. Here are just two examples:

    1. This is the American south. This was the work of right wing extremists. There aren’t enough antifa types in Alabama to buy a can of paint to spray with.

      1. It got suspended? I used to follow him. I think he followed me too. I’m followed by a couple of Satan and Devils now.

        1. I once wrote a review for The Globe Mail of a book on Satan (mostly his literary life). A week or two later, Alberta Report, a magazine run by the fundamentalist Ted Byfield (but, to be fair, employing a fair number of excellent journalists) wrote a column questioning my relationship with Satan, ie whether I actually had one, or any understanding of his reality. I confess to having been somewhat flattered by the attention to my spiritual state, although the Jewish thing was very much in the air, even if tacit.

    1. The world “SATAN” was written with such care on the synagogue door! About the only people intent on the dark one, and freaked out by Jews, are certain fanatical evangelicals. After all, the place is Huntsville, Alabama, it is verging on Easter (who crucified Jesus?), and nothing happens by chance, so someone must bear responsibility for bringing the coronavirus to Alabama.

      1. Indeed. Of course, I took it as they were suggesting Satan did all this by signing his handy work. Deep down I knew your version was the correct one but this made them seem all that more absurd and it makes me feel good to reduce such small minded, dangerous people into absurd, puerile caricatures.


  8. 1) this behavior is beyond my comprehension. I canNOT sympathize in any way for sick twisted people who would do this I care not for whatever poor upbringing they may have suffered.
    2) Trying to blame antifa, far left jews or BDS people for this reminds me of old adage that states, for people in any place but African veldt, that “When you hear hoofbeats look for horses not zebras” especially in that bastion of ignorance and bigotry as the old traitor states.
    Granted rarely, very rarely a zebra escapes from a zoo but the adds are the same as getting struck by a meteorite.

    1. Maybe not in Alabama, but everywhere else (and especially on American campuses) neo-Nazis and Fascists are zebras and BDS supporters and Antifa are horses. Attacks of much smaller contingent of far-right thugs are much more deadly, but attacks of BDS supporters are much, much more frequent though much less deadly. Jews do not have the luxury to see such behavior coming only from the side they politically abhor. They have to see the abhorrent behavior no matter from which political side it comes because in the end it’s equally dangerous.

      1. So utah and the mental wastelands of the west ( Utah, Nevada, Montana etc) are rife with antifa’s and have no neo nazi’s etc no matter the recent history of playacting by pretend militias, the bundy strain of stupidity, racist actions against the tribes and any “others”
        No no the whack job ammosexuals and their apologist’s are just trying to blame the victims that suffer at the hands of the alt right and its fellow travelers.
        This answer is purely mythicaal based upon delusions in a fever festering head where the brain has been already deestroyed by faux news and other deviants.

  9. Neil Young’s Alabama instantly comes to mind. A wheel in the ditch and a wheel on the track.
    I found compelling Stephen’s suggestion of letting these hateful slogans stay around and permeate the neighborhood. Letting people know that people like these perpetrators are in their midst might be helpful. But it’s just common sense to scrub the walls clean ASAP.

  10. Unfortunately it is not just the amount of anti-semitism about but also a large number of people who tolerate it and accuse those who do not of over-reacting.

    An ex-friend astounded me when I recounted a story of my travels which I found particularly repugnant. I think I have posted about the event on here before.

    I was at Dachau KZ with a close friend’s daughter who was reading for an MA in European history and felt she should visit a site but did not want to go alone.

    Entering and leaving we witnessed similar events. Groups of people (Americans both times) laughing, joking and posing for holiday snaps under “Arbeit macht frei”. It was if they were at Disneyland or somewhere like that, the lack of respect was disgusting.

    We mentioned this to a volunteer there and asked if she ever said anything. Her reply was that she did sometimes but was usually told to “lighten up”.

    This disgusted me even more but my ex-friend agreed with those desecrating a Holocaust Memorial and refused to budge whatever I argued. The guy in question was an atheist/humanist so should have no religious bias.

    1. (” . . . Americans both times) laughing, joking and posing for holiday snaps . . . at Disneyland or somewhere like that, the lack of respect was disgusting.”

      Have seen it happen at Arlington National Cemetery. A couple of years ago it made the news that the guard at the Tomb took some Philistine to task. I doubt the guard was told to “lighten up.”

  11. There is a single suspect for both spray paint vandalism events.
    Huntsville mayor Tommy Battle visited Chabad of Huntsville on Friday to meet with synagogue leaders.
    ” “When I heard about this, we came to see the rabbi and tell them our deep heartfelt sorrow this would happen anywhere in the world, and most importantly, in Huntsville,” said Battle.

    “We do not condone this. We are not that community,” said Battle.”
    The police and FBI are investigating.
    The suspect looks like a solitary teenage boy.
    The community and the FBI are doing everything right.

  12. I feel sorry for the person who did this, as he has no joy in his life, but carries an inexplicable hatred for people who have never done anything to him. If you were to ask him why he would not have a cogent answer, because there isn’t one. How sad to be so full of hate and hopelessness, and to waste your life energy instead of husbanding it for doing good and endeavouring to leave the universe a better place than when you entered it.

    1. Typically he lives (it is always a he) in his mother’s basement, masturbating and posting diatribes on Jew Watch. Pathetic rather than scary, actually.

  13. Really shocking and sickening to see this. My thoughts go out to Rabbi Listfield and the congregation. Solidarity with them and wishing them safe and happy holidays!

  14. I’ve read the sentiment occasionally on this website that an act such as this should not be considered a hate crime, but a simple act of vandalism. The crime being that someone spray-painted some slogans on a privately owned building. No different than if someone had painted ‘Have a Nice Day!’ on the building.
    I’d be interested to hear what other’s think about this.

    Alabama does have a hate crime law that applies to crimes committed based on religion.

    1. Just to be clear, I think the issue is with the existence of hate crimes as a special category of crime and not about whether a person like this one was hateful. It invites unequal application due to its vague nature and calls on the criminal justice system to make somewhat arbitrary distinctions. Hate crimes’ higher penalties also smack of revenge rather than dissuasion of potential law breakers.

      1. “calls on the criminal justice system to make somewhat arbitrary distinctions”

        But criminal justice systems do this all the time.

        1. You mean that the criminal justice system makes arbitrary decisions in non-hate-crime situations all the time? I suppose that’s true but we have no need to add more situations in which arbitrary judgments are needed. So are you in favor of hate crime statutes?

          1. Intent matters in the justice system. That’s why we have different grades of criminality when you kill somebody. (Well, not you, personally, of course.)

            I think that crimes that intend to intimidate communities are different from those that don’t. Spraying Nazi slogans and symbols at a Jewish cemetery are different from generic “tagging” offenses.

            This doesn’t mean the matter is trivial or that there isn’t potential for abuse. But there’s always potential for abuse in criminal justice, too.

  15. I am glad the hateful messages and symbols were quickly cleaned up. Instead of shocking people that such sentiments existed in their neighborhood, leaving them on display would normalize,condone, and encourage them. Timothy Snyder in his “On Tyranny: 20 lessons from the 20th Century” has as lesson #4 “Take responsibility for the face of the world.The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.” (page 32)

  16. Federal Hate Crime laws were added because states were not enforcing criminal assaults against minorities. They were also designed to get around the double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment.
    I suppose when some criminal attacks old ladies because they make easy targets, all old ladies feel vulnerable. I think in this case and that, the guy should be punished for the crime, not a thought crime.

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