Philadelphia police are investigating a series of acts of vandalism in Jewish buildings after graffiti was spray-painted sometime over the Jan. 14-15 weekend on the door of a mikvah under construction in a strip mall near Congregation Beth Solomon in Northeast Philadelphia.
The front of the mikvah, which was recently built with pricey Jerusalem stone to resemble the Kotel in the Holy City, was the only structure attacked among a dozen located in the strip mall, although it can’t be determined if the site was targeted as an anti-Semitic act.
This follows the recent destruction of five security cameras on Dec. 24 at the mall.
Business owners there then decided to install 16 heavy-duty security cameras Dec. 28. Those cameras were destroyed within a 45-minute span less than two weeks later, where the perpetrators got on the roof and cut wires. Each incident was reported to the police.
Now comes the defacement of the mikvah. Whether these events are connected is uncertain. However, it has left synagogue officials concerned, especially following the recent theft of a nemorah, which was later returned.
They don’t know if the spray-paint damage is permanent.
“It’s spray-painted on the stone, so we don’t know if we can clean it,” said Rabbi Akiva Pollack, educational director at Beth Solomon, which is located a block from the mikvah. “For us to get more Jerusalem stone would be very expensive.
“People are really upset. We just put this beautiful thing up and they write this senseless graffiti for no reason. It’s upsetting.
“We’ve been building for a year and a half. A month ago, when we put up the Jerusalem stone, which looks like the Holy Wall, is when the problem really started.”
But the problem isn’t isolated to the mikvah location.
“This is happening almost constantly in the shopping center,” said Lev Rapoport, the mall association president. “We had the cameras installed because people were hanging around all the time.”
Because the mikvah became the target of the latest incident, synagogue officials find it hard to believe it is a coincidence. They’re considering potential responses, including a neighborhood watch. The size of the strip mall, however, makes hiring private security impractical.
“The reality is we don’t know what to do,” said Rabbi Solomon Isaacson, who’s been there for more than 40 years. “At the end of the day, the synagogue is where people who go to work come back and pray.”
Northeast Philadelphia has seen other acts of vandalism to Jewish facilities in recent days.
Windows were broken at Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai on both Dec. 2 and Jan. 6. Those incidents remain under investigation.
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