Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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‘Die Juden’ Painted in Yellow on Portland Synagogue, Small Fires Set

Update May 16, 2023: A man charged with a series of hate crimes, which includes setting fire to a mosque and vandalizing two Jewish synagogues, has been ruled unfit to stand trial.; more here.

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Update January 19, 2023: Michael Bivins is scheduled to enter a plea deal after new federal charges were brought against him for vandalizing two synagogues, a mosque, and an African American owned-business; more here.

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Update May 8, 2022: Michael Bivins, an investigative journalist from the Portland area, has been arrested and charged in connection to a large synagogue and mosque vandalism spree; more here.

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Staff from Congregation Beth Israel, the city’s reform synagogue in Northwest Portland, on Monday morning found an antisemitic death threat scrawled in yellow paint on the outside of the building and scorch marks from recent fires set in front of the doors to the sanctuary.

Rabbi Michael Z. Cahana said finding the death threat, “Die Juden,” painted on the exterior wall facing Northwest Flanders Street just four days after Yom HaShoah, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is a chilling reminder of the need to “recommit to being vigilant against antisemitism.”

“It’s easy for us in Portland to think this doesn’t happen around here. That we’re free of anti-Semitism and hate speech, but the reality is it’s very much a part of our world,” Cahana said. “It’s very much of a part of the Pacific Northwest.”

After consulting with community security professionals and police, Cahana said he doesn’t believe this is part of a plot or plan for violence.

He stressed that he doesn’t want his congregants or the community to live in fear.

“But be aware,” Cahana said. “And how poignant it is to have this just a few days after having our community’s Holocaust survivors in our sanctuary, where we were honoring their eyewitness, their experience. It really recommits us to being vigilant against anti-Semitism.”

The phrase painted across the outside wall of the historic sanctuary contains the German word for Jews.

Clergy and staff have seen other scorch marks from small fires set on the synagogue’s campus, the rabbi said, but believe those likely were set by people smoking drugs.

The scorch marks discovered Monday were on the side Carriage Door to the synagogue and in the entry way, just off to the side of the main entrance, he said. They weren’t present during the day on Sunday, Cahana said.

The synagogue staff filed a report with the Portland Police Bureau, the FBI’s hate crimes coordinator, the Oregon Fusion Centerwhich works with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to produce threat assessments, and the Secure Community Network, a nonprofit that works to ensure the safety and security of the organized Jewish community in North America.

The Rev. Chuck Currie, a local minister in the United Church of Christ, condemned “the antisemitic attack” against the Portland synagogue. “Such hatred has no place in the City of Roses- or anywhere. I stand with my friend and colleague Rabbi @michaelcahana, & all my Jewish brothers & sisters,” he wrote on Twitter.