Portland synagogue vandalized with threatening hate speech and fire

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — On Monday morning, staff members at Congregation Beth Israel in Northwest Portland discovered someone had vandalized their synagogue with threatening hate speech and fire.

Someone used yellow paint to write “Die Juden” on the building wall. Juden is the German word for Jews. There were also burn marks on a synagogue door. The anti-Semitic threat cut deep for Senior Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana.

“The hatred, the bigotry is still alive and it’s still a part of our community,” said Cahana.

Cahana believed the yellow paint was used as a reference to the yellow star badges that Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust. He also believed the timing of the vandalism was significant, since Wednesday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Then just a few days later, to have these hateful words written on the walls of our sanctuary really, really hit home,” said Cahana.

Cahana reported the threat to police. He also notified the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League. Last year, that organization tracked 2,717 anti-Semitic incidents nationwide — the most on record since they started tracking them in 1979. That’s a 34% jump over 2020.

“We are not feeling like we’re in any kind of danger,” said Cahana, “But we also take it very seriously.”

Above all, Cahana said he wanted to expose what happened, not hide it from the public.

“We have a right to assemble, we have a right to be in our synagogue, we have a right to be in our sacred space,” said Cahana. “No one’s going to keep us from that.”

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