A Jewish community center and a church within a mile of one another in Virginia were vandalized, authorities said Tuesday, as swastikas and derogatory language were sprayed on their buildings.
A Fairfax County police spokeswoman said authorities received a report at about 7am Tuesday that graffiti had been sprayed on the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, only to receive a report about an hour-and-a-half later of a similar vandalism incident at Little River United Church of Christ, located just a few hundred meters from the Community Center.
The incidents occurred between 1am and 4 am, spokeswoman Tawny Wright said. Police are reviewing surveillance footage in both cases.
The Washington Post reports that Jeff Dannick, executive director of the JCC, said the graffiti was going to be removed on Tuesday, adding that it was “particularly painful” that the incident occurred during Passover.
“We retell that story generation to generation every year so that we never forget,” he said. “It’s a painful reminder of how ugly and dangerous the world can be, but also how we can overcome it.”
At the church, a swastika was painted on the Holy Week schedule, and a sign that read “Say NO to anti-Muslim bigotry” was crossed out. The words “Jesus knows no traitors” were also scrawled on the sign.
Pastor David Lindsey said he wasn’t surprised the church was a target, saying that the “anti-Muslim bigotry” banner was the church’s latest attempt to reach out to its neighbors.
Little River was founded in 1955 as a racially integrated church and started performing same-sex weddings 16 years ago," he said.
"The response was overwhelmingly positive, but every once in a while you’re going to get an incident,” he commented.
The graffiti incidents come after scores of threats against Jewish community centers around the country. As of last month, there were 166 threats made in 38 states as well as three Canadian provinces, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
While American Jews sat and watched in fear as anti-Semitism seemed to be manifesting its head in a fashion unknown to the community in modern times in the US, and as many blamed the far-right emboldened by President Donald Trump, the community was thrown into a state of sheer confusion as they were forced to digest the arrest of a Jewish Israeli hacker who authorities believe is responsible for the harassment.
Israeli police said the motive behind the threats was unclear. An attorney for the 19-year-old man said her client had a "very serious medical condition" that might have affected his behavior.
In March, US law enforcement arrested a former journalist in St. Louis, Juan Thompson, on charges he had threatened Jewish organizations as part of a bizarre campaign to harass his former girlfriend. But Israeli police say the Jewish teen is the primary suspect in the more than 150 bomb threats in North America since early January.