(Photo by Randy H. Goodman)
Officials conferred at the scene this morning.
Saturday was supposed to be a day of prayer and celebration at Temple Shalom in West Newton, but a swastika spray-painted on the sign at the entrance to the temple marred the celebration.
Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis told the congregation about the vandalism from the pulpit Saturday, addressing both a bar and bat mitzvah as well as a prayer service at the temple.
"We're preaching for openness, understanding, peace, justice and tolerance, and here is this act of injustice," he said in an interview. "Even if it was a prank, it's not funny. It's a hate crime."
Newton police did not respond to phone calls about the incident. But the offensive graffiti appeared less than a week after the 70th anniversary of Kritallnacht, a two-day anti-Semitic rampage in Nazi Germany that is considered to be the beginning of the Holocaust. Gurvis said the Reform temple had never faced a similar problem in the 10 years he has been rabbi there.
Newton saw a string of racial and homophobic vandalism between 2001 and 2004. The Bowen elementary school, one of the city's most diverse schools, was once spray painted with the words "KKK" and "White Power" were spray-painted on a school mural. Some suspected that the graffiti was aimed at the Bowen School's black principal Patricia A. Kelly.
The same year, several residents found racist and homophobic literature left on their lawns in West Newton. The National Alliance, which is based in West Virginia, claimed responsibility for the literature.
In response to those incidents, Gurvis told the Globe in 2004: "When threats are made, it needs to be responded to. The community needs to stand up as one and say that this has no place in this community, or in any community."
On Saturday, others stood with him. Newton mayor David Cohen said he went to the temple shortly after he learned about the vandalism from police. He said he stayed for the shabbat prayer service led by Gurvis.
"The Temple Shalom community has been wounded by this event," he said, "and it's important that we all stand together."
Richard Malmberg, pastor of the Second Church of Newton, also joined the prayer services in a show of solidarity with the congregation. Gurvis, who was leaving for Israel Saturday afternoon, said he will formulate a plan for how to handle the vandalism that will coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday.
-- Meg Woolhouse