State and federal police investigate swastika painted on Harrisburg Jewish temple

Written by on August 12, 2020

State and federal police investigate swastika painted on Harrisburg Jewish temple

Hate crimes against Jews are on the rise in Pennsylvania, state police say.

Brett Sholtis, WITF

August 12, 2020

A Harrisburg police officer talks with Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Ismail El-Guemra, at right. In the background, Rabbi Elisha Friedman walks toward the officers as he describes what he saw.  Brett Sholtis / WITF

Harrisburg police are working with state and federal authorities to investigate what they say is a likely hate crime after a swastika was found painted on a synagogue.

This hate symbol was painted using a stencil near the front door of the Kesher Israel Congregation in Harrisburg, suggesting that it was a planned act, said Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Ismail El-Guemra.

El-Guemra, a heritage affairs officer assisting on the case, said anti-Semitic hate crimes by extremist groups are on the rise in Pennsylvania.

Like other Jewish places of worship, Kesher Israel Congregation has increased its focus on security in recent years, especially after the October 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, said Rabbi Elisha Friedman.

“So I don’t think it’s like a shock that there are people out there like this, but it’s a reminder that we really got to make sure our security is at the highest level that it’s got to be, which is unfortunate.”

At the Harrisburg Jewish Federation, President Jenn Ross says the swastika represents the worst of Nazi atrocities.

“It really means that they are trying to instill fear and they are trying to demonstrate the utmost hatred for people, and that should not be tolerated,” Ross said.

She said the coronavirus pandemic and economic problems are making problems like racism and anti-Semitism worse. She hopes to provide resources for people on how to face intolerance.

“I just hope that if the individual who did this egregious act [reads] this, they understand the horrific thing they did, and I hope they understand and learn from their bad experience.”

Anyone with information about the crime can contact Harrisburg Police at (717) 558-6900.

Capitol Bureau Chief Sam Dunklau contributed to this report. 

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