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Swastikas in Colorado Springs

Vandals hit Temple Beit Torah in Colorado Springs, April 20VANDALS defaced Beit Torah, a Reform temple in Colorado Springs, with swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti on Friday, April 20, the anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

“Happy 4:20,” a reference to Hitler’s birthday, was spray-painted on the temple’s exterior walls. The front door was also defaced.

The Colorado Springs police originally classified the crime as criminal mischief, but ADL Mountain States Director Scott Levin told the IJN it is now being investigated as a hate crime.

Levin says that he met with the Colorado Springs police on Monday to “make sure they understand that this was a biased, motivated hate crime.

“When a crime is committed against an institution like a Jewish temple, there is no doubt in my mind it fits the legal parameters of Colorado’s hate crime laws,” he says.

“The police have assured me that they are now investigating this incident as such.”

Although no arrests had been made as of press time, Colorado Springs police say they will continue searching for suspects.

“No one has been apprehended and we’re running out of leads,” says Colorado Springs Police Det. Mickey Finn, investigative supervisor for property crimes.

“We can’t say absolutely that this was a hate crime, but that’s the way we’re approaching it.”

Finn says that while nothing suggests the incident at Beit Torah reflects a coordinated effort, “without a suspect in custody it’s impossible to say.”

THE vandalism occurred between 10 p.m. Thursday, April 19, and early Friday morning, April 20.

Beit Torah caretaker Stan Peters, who lives next door to the synagogue, was setting up a garage sale at his home until around 10 p.m. Thursday.

A neighbor who lives across the street noticed the damage before 7 a.m., Friday, and called a friend who attends Beit Torah. The police were also contacted.

Beit Torah Vice President Judith Barthel rushed over with a couple of members as soon as she heard.

Once police examined the crime scene, the group helped Peters remove the offensive slogans and symbols.

“Fortunately it came off easily,” Barthel told the IJN.

The outpouring of support from our community was wonderful,” Barthel says. “We received several sympathetic emails. Even our mailman was upset.”

Over at Temple Shalom, a merged Reform-Conservative congregation founded in 1971, the Brotherhood immediately offered assistance.

“This affirms the fact that there are many people in the world who are good and kind and generous to each other,” Barthel says. “Only a small minority tries to make us feel uncomfortable.”

Beit Torah held regularly scheduled services that Friday evening.

Visiting guest rabbi Birdie Becker of Pueblo’s Emanuel, who intended to give a sermon on the Holocaust, “was able to integrate what had happened to us,” Barthel says.

“It was a beautiful service.”

On Sunday, the children attended religious school.

About 80 families belong to the Reform temple founded by Rabbi Emeritus Irvin S. Ehrlich in 1992.

Beit Torah rented space for services and congregational activities until six years ago, when it moved to its current location north of downtown Colorado Springs.

Despite the April 20 incident and Beit Torah’s visibly Jewish presence in the area, Barthel does not feel an increased sense of vulnerability.

“No, no, no,” insists the former Los Angeles resident who moved to the Springs three-and-a-half years ago with her husband. “We’re so happy with our temple.

“We are working hard as a congregation to sustain and continue the building — with the name ‘Beit Torah’ on our doors and the Star of David,” she says.

“When you asked me that, I heard my mom saying, ‘If you don’t mark your building as Jewish, they win.’”

Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News



Andrea Jacobs

IJN Senior Writer | andrea@ijn.com


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