Near the doors to the historic Emerson Avenue entrance of Temple Israel, in Uptown Minneapolis, is a quote from Isaiah: “May this house be a house of prayer for all peoples.”
But last Tuesday, just before midnight on the second night of Passover, the stately synagogue was vandalized with purple graffiti. The lone vandal, who was spotted on synagogue security cameras, spray-painted letters on all sides of the synagogue building, including the columns facing Hennepin Avenue.
According to Temple Israel’s Senior Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman, the vandalism did not appear to be hate-related or specifically anti-Semitic.
“There’s nothing obvious [hate-related],” she told the Star Tribune. “There are letters, and it’s unclear exactly what they mean… Nothing like a swastika or anything that’s obviously anti-Semitic at this point.”
Minneapolis police and the City of Minneapolis were called to investigate the incident last Wednesday.
Last Friday, Zimmerman spoke to TC Jewfolk and noted that there has been an outpouring of support for the synagogue and its nearly 6,000 attendees.
“The governor called me personally, Senator [Al] Franken wrote a statement,” she said. “People have sent money, it’s unbelievable… Churches in the area have sent money for the cleanup. A couple from Bloomington drove here and gave us a $20 bill. I mean, just unbelievable how people have been incredibly supportive.”
Temple Israel also received a letter of support from the Islamic Resource Group, on behalf of the Minnesota Muslim community at large.
“We are greatly saddened by the vandalism at your synagogue,” the letter read. “Acts like these only firm up our resolve to show solidarity with the members of Temple Israel and demonstrate that we stand with them in face of this vandalism. At a time when mosques and synagogues, both locally and nationally, have been at the receiving end of such vandalism, it is the need of the hour for all people of conscience to stand against bigotry and hate.”
In her official statement on the incident, Zimmerman noted that “negative acts such as this strengthen our resolve to express our Judaism and our collective pride as a people.”
“We would rather be showcased on tonight’s evening news for spreading our positive mission and vision, teaching our children about our heritage and standing as a Jewish voice in the city of Minneapolis,” Zimmerman said. “The Passover story speaks directly to our response — that no matter the obstacles, the Jewish people remain strong and steadfast.”
Temple Israel has been vandalized in the past, along with other structures in the neighborhood. Zimmerman told the Star Tribune that this act would not deter the synagogue from its Passover celebration.
“We stand strong in our Jewish traditions, our Jewish beliefs and our Jewish work for social justice,” she said.