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Synagogue vandalism probed

September 17, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown City Police are investigating a vandalism at the synagogue on East Baltimore Street during the holiest time of the Jewish year.

Rabbi Janice Garfunkel of the Congregation B'nai Abraham said she reported the vandalism as a hate crime to police Friday morning after discovering the yellow spray paint near her parking space.

"I guess this small voice of hatred comes as a reminder to us that we in the Jewish community and in the general community in Hagerstown still have a lot of work to do to teach the message of tolerance, peace and love," Garfunkel said.

She said she would address the congregation about the vandalism Friday night. The graffiti was sprayed between 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and mid-morning Friday.

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City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said patrol officers would pay special attention to the synagogue.

The graffiti, which was cleaned up on Friday, included a swastika and the date Sept. 1, 1939, alongside the words "a great date," and "88," Garfunkel said.

Garfunkel said she believed the graffiti was in response to a story The Herald-Mail published last Sunday remembering the Holocaust and the beginning of World War II when Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.

Garfunkel believes the "88" refers to the year the story said she visited her mother's hometown in Germany for a 50th anniversary commemoration of Kristallnacht, or "The Night of Broken Glass."

"It's very painful and distressing to see a house of worship desecrated by people that have to express themselves in such a vile and distasteful manner," said David L. Handler, congregation president.

"I hope the community will join together to voice its outrage at acts such as these," said Handler, who has been a congregation member for 21 years.

The 10-day period from Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish new year - on Friday to Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement - is referred to as the "Days of Awe" or "Days of Repentance" when Jews evaluate their lives, Garfunkel said.

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