Community Condemns Antisemitic Vandalism in Bethesda

photo of Walt Whitman sign with antisemetic message

For the third time in one month, the Bethesda area was the scene of antisemitic vandalism.

Saturday morning, Montgomery County Police officers went to Walt Whitman High School on Whittier Boulevard where they found antisemitic graffiti spray painted on the school’s sign board. The words “Jews Not Welcome” was written on the school sign.

On Friday, a swastika on a bench at a bus stop was reported to the Anti Defamation League (ADL).

On Nov. 14, antisemitic graffiti that said, “No Mercy for Jews” was painted along the Bethesda Trolley Trail.

“Acts of hate and bigotry are on the rise across the country and in Montgomery County,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones. “Anti-Semitism and any forms of hate/bias are not welcome in our community.”

The police department coordinated with the Anti-Defamation League and continues to investigate these incidents, said Jones. Officers are also actively increasing patrols to include community centers, schools and places of worship throughout the county.

“As a community, we must work together to protect the diversity that our county offers, and we need to reject anti-Semitism and hatred of any kind,” he wrote in a statement.

Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight said Montgomery County Public Schools “is deeply disturbed and saddened by the antisemitic graffiti found outside of Walt Whitman High School.”

She added, “This hurtful behavior, along with any acts of discrimination, have no place in our school community and will not be tolerated.”

Whitman Principal Robert Dodd sent a letter Saturday to community members, noting, “This behavior is abhorrent, extremely hurtful, and will not be tolerated at Walt Whitman High School.”

High school officials notified police after “individuals” reported the incident.

On Dec. 14, Walt Whitman’s Jewish Student Union, in collaboration with staff, led the school through a OneWhitman lesson on confronting antisemitism, Dodd wrote in his letter.

“While we are deeply disturbed and disappointed by what occurred today, it will not deter us from our collective mission to end antisemitism and intolerance and build a safe and inclusive school community where ALL students can thrive,” Dodd wrote.

He encouraged parents “to talk with their children about respecting and showing acceptance to all people and demonstrating understanding of our differences. Please help them understand the impact that intolerable symbols, words, and actions have.”

Montgomery County Councilmembers wrote a collective statement, noting, “We are disgusted and angry to learn about yet another display of hate targeting the Jewish community in Montgomery County. Our nation continues to experience a deeply troubling rise in antisemitism, and we must continue to join together to denounce these acts of hate here at home.”

The council “stands in solidarity with our Jewish community and condemns all acts of hate and religious bigotry,” councilmembers wrote in the joint statement.

Councilmember Kate Stewart also issued a statement, noting, “The appearance of unambiguous, hateful Antisemitic graffiti on the sign of Walt Whitman HS – with the added context of being two nights prior to the first night of Hanukkah, during Shabbat – is egregious and intolerable in our country.” She added, “This isn’t the first hateful graffiti at Whitman, but together as a community, we can make it the last.”

Multiple Jewish organizations also issued a statement. The ADL (Anti-Defamation League) of Washington, D.C., the American Jewish Community, D.C, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington strongly noted their anger and disgust by yet another incident of antisemitic vandalism.

The organizations urged everyone who sees acts of hate or has information about it to contact the police and the ADL.

“As organizations on the front lines and working together to combat this hatred, we feel our community’s increasing alarm and fear. Our region is known for celebrating and respecting diversity and is home to one of the largest Jewish populations nationwide. We cannot normalize or become inured to the proliferation of such heinous acts,” the groups wrote in their joint statement.

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