Antisemitic graffiti that defaced Portland's Congregation Beth Israel, May 2, 2022. (Congregation Beth Israel) (Congregation Beth Israel)
antisemitic graffiti

Death threat came just four days after the congregation marked Yom HaShoah.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Members of Portland’s Congregation Beth Israel discovered threatening antisemitic graffiti on an exterior wall and scorch marks on the front doors on Monday morning, according to local Oregon media.

Beth Israel Rabbi Michael Cahana told local Channel 3 News the graffiti said, “‘Die Juden’ which is essentially a Nazi slogan, ‘death to Jews.'”

He also told The Oregonian that the death threat came just four days after the congregation marked Yom HaShoah, commemorating the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

“It’s easy for us in Portland to think this doesn’t happen around here. That we’re free of antisemitism and hate speech, but the reality is it’s very much a part of our world. It’s very much of a part of the Pacific Northwest,” he said.

“How poignant it is to have this just a few days after having our community’s Holocaust survivors in our sanctuary, where we were honoring their eyewitness, their experience. It really recommits us to being vigilant against antisemitism.”

The synagogue staff filed reports with the Portland Police Bureau and the FBI’s hate crimes coordinator. Police are investigating and have not disclosed if they have leads on suspects.

Beth Israel has also been in contact with the Fusion Center which works with law enforcement authorities to produce threat assessments, and with the Security Community Network, which spearheads efforts to boost security for North American Jewish institutions.

Oregon’s U.S. Senator, Ron Wyden, who is a member of Beth Israel, denounced the vandalism.

“Hate speech and vandalism must never be allowed to terrorize Portland or any community. I stand with Rabbi Cahana and our entire synagogue by adding my voice to his when he says we all must be vigilant against these attacks,” he tweeted.

Local clergy also stood in solidarity with the synagogue. Local minister Rev. Chuck Currie tweeted, “Such hatred has no place in the City of Roses- or anywhere. I stand with my friend and colleague Rabbi @michaelcahana, & all my Jewish brothers & sisters.”

According to the local website Patch, the vandalism is part of a growing trend of hate crimes over the last three years.

“As of April 30, [the Oregon Department of Justice] had received reports of 270 separate hate crime incidents. In 2020, there were 271 reported incidents all year,” it reported.

Beth Israel, a Reform congregation, is Oregon’s oldest synagogue. The congregation was founded in 1858 and the synagogue was built a year later as Oregon achieved statehood.

Most of Oregon’s 40,000 Jews live in the Portland area. According to the Beth Israel’s website, the congregation counts 855 member families.

The incident also came two days after Hamas’s Gaza chief, Yahya Sinwar, threatened attacks on “thousands of synagogues” around the world over Israeli security measures on the Temple Mount following Palestinian riots at the holy site.

In March, Congress included $250 million in grants for synagogue security as part of a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill.