Hundreds Clean Up Vandalized Synagogue

March 8, 2004 - Seattle Post

Rabbi Daniel Cohen said the vandalism may have been sparked by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"...

Also see our Open Letter section on: Contrived Violence Against Graveyards, Synagogues, or God forbid, Jewish People to Smear the Movie

DENVER - About 300 people of different faiths turned out to clean up a synagogue vandalized with swastikas and Nazi symbols on the eve of the Jewish holiday Purim.

So many people showed up Sunday at BMH-BJ Congregation, where vandalism had been discovered the day before, that people had to stand in line for a turn with a brush and a can of paint thinner.

"This is a place for everyone," said Doug Mix, who is not a member of the congregation. "That is why everyone is here. There are Christians, Jews, Muslims and people who are not religious. We all came out here because America is still America, and we don't tolerate this."

A custodian for the synagogue discovered about 10 markings when he arrived Saturday morning. Purim was celebrated Saturday night and Sunday. Police had not made any arrests by Monday.

Holocaust survivor Fanny Starr saw the graffiti Saturday morning.

"I was just shaking and broke down," she said. "All the wounds, the old wounds starting open again."

Rabbi Daniel Cohen said the vandalism may have been sparked by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," which just finished its second weekend as the No. 1 movie in the country. The movie, which some believe wrongly blames Jews for the death of Christ, has been criticized as anti-Semitic.

Elise Zakroff said she was sure the film inspired the graffiti.

"What Mel Gibson did is terrible," Zakroff said. "It is happening all over. We are tired of anti-Semitism. All we want is peace."

Shortly after the movie opened, a Denver pastor outraged Jews and Christians with a sign outside his Lovingway United Pentecostal Church that read "Jews Killed The Lord Jesus." He said the sign was inspired by Gibson's film and later put a sign of apology.

In 2002, anti-Semitic incidents rose 8 percent nationwide over the previous year, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Colorado had 35 anti-Semitic incidents.

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