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Synagogue in Kansas Defaced with Antisemitic Messages

A Topeka synagogue was on the receiving end of antisemitic messages earlier this week, prompting responses from the Jewish community, lawmakers and police.

KSNT 27 News spoke with Rabbi Sam Stern with the Temple of Beth Sholom Synagogue, located in west Topeka about the act of vandalism left in the driveway leading to the spiritual center. Messages of ‘Save Gaza’ and ‘Free Palestine’ were left spray painted onto the ground on Thursday, Feb. 22, an act which was condemned by the temple in a social media statement.

“Today we discovered graffiti at the entrance of our property, featuring a pro-Palestinian message. Obviously, targeting American Jews for the actions of the Israeli government is antisemitism. They have targeted other areas in Topeka, and all these incidents are under investigation by the Topeka Police Department and FBI.”

Stern said he has heard of other incidents like this that have been reported in Topeka recently. However, this act, committed so close to the synagogue, has been distressing for the Jewish community who are not connected to the current conflict happening in Gaza.

“We are glad this is a rare occurrence,” Stern said. “We generally feel safe in Topeka.”

As of Friday, Feb. 23, the graffiti has been removed, but an investigation into who was responsible for it is ongoing. Stern said police are currently trying to obtain video from nearby homes and schools to find the responsible parties.

“We know the community doesn’t stand behind this kind of thing and we won’t be changing how we do anything because of this act,” Stern said.

City of Topeka spokeswoman Rosie Nichols said the Topeka Police Department (TPD) first received word of this graffiti incident at the synagogue around 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 22 at the temple, located at 4200 SW Munson Avenue. The spokeswoman said allegations were made that the street in front of the temple was vandalized with political messages which are not considered hate speech.

The discovery of the messages also prompted a response from Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson and House Speaker Dan Hawkins. The pair released the following joint statement in regards to the incident at the temple:

It is deeply troubling to see the hate and intolerance of the antisemitic vandalism that occurred at a place of worship in our state’s capital. The rot of antisemitism has no place in Kansas and we proudly stand with the Jewish community against this hateful act.”

Source: https://www.ksnt.com/news/local-news/jewish-temple-vandalized-with-anti-semitic-messages-police-investigating/