Hoosiers Stand in Solidarity with Congregation of Vandalized Synagogue

Posted on: July 31, 2018, by :

By Jeff Turner

The Congregation Shaarey Tefilla, a synagogue in Carmel, was vandalized with Anti-Semitic graffiti over the weekend, prompting massive outrage from Carmel residents and the central Indiana community. The vandalism included Nazi flags and Iron Crosses, spray painted on two walls by the synagogue’s garbage bin, according to the Indy Star. It has sparked condemnation from city and state lawmakers, as well as Indiana Senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, and Vice President Mike Pence, former Governor of Indiana.

On Monday July 30th, the synagogue held a Community Solidarity Gathering to address this unfortunate incident. It was standing room only inside, hundreds in attendance, including Carmel Mayor James Brainard, Mike Delph, Jill Donnelly, wife of Senator Joe Donnelly, Indiana State Representatives Ed Delaney and Carey Hamilton, members of the Carmel City Council, as well as faith leaders from multiple religious denominations in central Indiana.

Rabbi Benjamin Sendrow described the act of vandalism as “an act motivated by hate…evil. But everyone here is here to fight evil,” he said in his opening remarks. He went on to describe the effect the anti-Semitic vandalism has had on the community of Carmel, saying “A sleeping giant has been awakened. Because that happened, this synagogue is full of brothers and sisters of good will…(it has) awakened the sleeping giant of love, acceptance, and mutual respect.”

Mayor Brainard also delivered remarks. “We must look at this horrific act of vandalism as an opportunity to come together…(as a chance to) think and learn from history,” he said. He went on to cite Nazi Germany, how because people didn’t speak out then that the Nazis were able to seize power little by little, as an example of what happens when “intolerance is tolerated.” He requested those in the community to fly American flags in an act of solidarity to send a message that the community “will not be intimidated.”

The recent act of vandalism has sparked renewed calls for hate crime legislation in the state of Indiana. Indiana is one of five states without a hate crime law. The matter was taken up by state lawmakers during the last legislative session, but a finalized bill failed to make it to the floor. Governor Eric Holcomb has now said that he would support hate crime legislation in the wake of this incident, which would qualify as a hate crime in other states.
The overall reaction from those in attendance was positive.

“I see it as a good sign (that) so many people are here,” said Ethan, whose cousin was one of the speakers and whose Grandmother also attends services at the synagogue. “You always get that ping of sadness when you see a hate crime. But as cliché as it sounds it’s nice seeing people outside your own community reacting in such a special way.” When asked about hate crime legislation, he said he supported it, but when asked if it would actually deter such acts of anti-Semitism and racism said “(It’s) hard to say, I hope so. But I think what is better at deterring attacks is bringing people together. So I think this type of getting together works better.” Nonetheless, he felt a hate crime law might deter people from future acts.

And, in a way, showings of solidarity like this may well do more to deter future acts than any hate crime legislation ever would.

“It’s better to see that the community come together in the way that it did,” said Jake Price, who also attended the event. “I see that as the greater triumph.”

But not everyone who attended felt that the vandalism of the synagogue would ultimately bring about the passage of hate crime legislation in Indiana. “I am just not holding my breath,” said Kim Saylor, who was at the Solidarity Gathering. “We have spent every session for years trying (to pass a hate crime law). It has not been accepted at every turn.” She felt the only reason the Indiana GOP spoke out against the vandalism at the synagogue, which would qualify as a hate crime in states with such laws on the Books was “political expediency,” and that the condemnation amounted to little more than lip service.

Actions do speak louder than words. And until a real attempt is made at securing passage of a hate crime bill, many skeptics will remain.

As of this writing, the person or persons responsible for vandalizing Congregation Shaarey Tefilla have not been caught, and the crime is still being investigated by the Carmel police.

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