Germantown Jewish Centre reaffirms support for Black Lives Matter after vandalism

by Walt Maguire
Posted 6/16/21

On May 28, the Germantown Jewish Centre discovered a large sign they had erected in support of Black Lives Matter had been defaced. The BLM sign had been in place more than a year.

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Germantown Jewish Centre reaffirms support for Black Lives Matter after vandalism

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On May 28, the Germantown Jewish Centre discovered a large sign they had erected in support of Black Lives Matter had been defaced. Someone had painted “JEWISH” over the word “BLACK.” The act prompted a June 10 vigil at the center, 400 West Ellet Street (Lincoln Drive and Ellet), that attracted approximately 40 participants.

Germantown Jewish Center staff reported it to the police, but no progress has been made.

The BLM sign had been in place more than a year on Lincoln Drive, at the intersection with Ellet. It’s on the south-facing side of a large sign for the synagogue, about six feet wide. The north side displays a support message for the LGBTQ community.  It was a demonstration of community support that Rabbi Adam Zeff, rabbi at GJC, said synagogue and board members found uncontroversial, and they were mystified what had prompted the attack.

Rabbi Zeff said there was similar graffiti in the same handwriting on street poles and BLM lawn signs in the neighborhood, so it’s unknown if the GJC sign was targeted specifically. One of the speakers at the June 10  vigil speculated it was a reaction to a rise in anti-Semitism in late May, but no one has been identified in the incidents.

Dan Livney, president of the center, issued a statement on behalf of the GJC. “Regardless of how one feels about the sign, the desecration of one statement in order to make another is not an act of disagreement but one of vandalism and of overt racism.”

At the June 10 vigil, which was called “Mt. Airy Jews Say Black Lives Matter,” a replacement sign had been installed in time for the event. Attendees at the vigil were a mix of synagogue members, Mt. Airy neighbors, and other members of the Jewish community in Philadelphia. Cars passing on Lincoln Drive tapped their horns in support, which sometimes made the speeches and songs hard to hear. More followed on social media. Rabbi Michelle Greenfield was one of four organizers for the event. The planning started shortly after the sign was defaced on May 28.

“It’s important for the Jewish community to speak up,” she said.

As the vigil ended, Rabbi Zeff said “I was really touched. It felt it was constructive.”

 “We are living in increasingly complicated, saddening, and maddening times,” Livney said. “I do not pretend to have any answers to any of what is going on. I only want to express and to share in a sense of outrage at this vile action committed on our property.”

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