A statue outside Olympia’s Temple Beth Hatfiloh was vandalized with a spray-painted swastika sometime Monday night or early Tuesday.
Rabbi Rabbi Seth Goldstein said the temple hasn’t received any threats accompanying the vandalism, but the incident was worrisome.
“The swastika is a very potent symbol for the Jewish community, a very hateful symbol,” Goldstein said. “It definitely is a cause for concern.”
The vandalism was reported to the Olympia Police Department and is being investigated as a hate crime.
Lt. Paul Lower said that a large amount of graffiti has been reported in downtown Olympia in recent weeks — but no swastikas besides the one at the temple.
“We haven’t seen anything else like that,” Lower said.
While the temple has been vandalized in the past, Goldstein said this is the first time in his memory that vandals have used a swastika. He has been at the temple for 13 years.
In a blog post, Goldstein wrote, “...whatever the reason, a swastika is not mere vandalism — it is a symbol of hatred with deep resonance with Jews and shakes us to our core, especially in a community in which we are constantly reminded of our minority status.”
The swastika hasn’t yet been cleaned from the statue. Goldstein said that because the statue is a piece of art, created by artist Simon Kogan, it needs to be cleaned carefully.
“If someone had spray painted a wall or some brick, we would take care of it right away,” Goldstein said. “But because this is art, we need to make sure we don’t damage it.”
Since the vandalism, other groups in Olympia’s religious community have reached out to Temple Beth Hatfiloh to show their support, Goldstein said.
“We’ve been receiving a lot of support from the community, and it’s been really good to feel that,” Goldstein said.