Graffiti near Jewish service agency followed rabbi’s op-ed

SEATTLE — A Seattle rabbi is speaking out after anti-Semitic graffiti appeared near the social services agency he runs.

The rabbi says the message appears to be in response to his op-ed calling attention to a rise in hate against the Jewish community.

“It was just like a billboard,” Rabbi Will Berkovitz said of the message, which read, “It’s okay to be a Zionist genocider.”

Nine days after The Seattle Times published an opinion piece by Berkovitz, the graffiti appeared on a wall across the street from Jewish Family Service of Seattle, where he is CEO.

“I think there’s a very high likelihood it was in response to my op-ed, but I can’t say that for certain,” Berkovitz said.

A week after a gunman took hostages inside a Texas synagogue, Rabbi Berkovitz wrote about a rise in hatred of Jews, and what he calls “profound silence” from non-Jews in Seattle.

“I think the hatred toward the Jewish community is not just the far-right folks, I think it’s also some of the more progressive people that we see in Seattle,” Berkovitz said.

In his article, Berkovitz wrote, “It is far too easy for critique of the Israeli government to be used as fodder for assaulting and intimidating Jews and defacing Jewish spaces.”

That was before the graffiti appeared Sunday.

“That couldn’t more clearly be an example of the thing I was talking about,” he said.

In their report about this vandalism, Seattle police called the message “clearly anti-Jewish” and that it meets the criteria for a hate crime and malicious harassment.

On the night of the Texas synagogue attack, KIRO 7 talked with Regina Friedland at the American Jewish Committee.

“I just hope people wake up to all of this,” she said.

Friedland said Jewish people are often not recognized as a minority targeted in attacks.

That’s despite repeated security incidents and bomb threats around the country, and major events like the 2006 shooting spree at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, where a gunman killed one woman and injured five others.

“What could have been a bigger wakeup call? Yet that happened here and there’s still a reluctance to call things out,” Friedland said.