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Ugly anti-Semitism in Colorado Springs

Jews, Muslims, African Americans and others join together at a rally, Aug. 6, in Colorado Springs.

Jews, Muslims, African Americans and others join together at a rally, Aug. 6, in Colorado Springs.

Jews are appreciated because we are rare like gold,” said Abigail Gerstel, 10. “Underneath the surface, we’re all the same. It doesn’t matter what religion we follow because in the end it’s our actions that matter.”

Abigail and her younger brother Levi, five, participated in a rally in Colorado Springs on Sunday, Aug. 6. Rebecca Gerstel, the siblings’ mother, explained, “We went to the rally because if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem. It’s disheartening when terrible things happen and people are passive. We need to speak out against hate and anti-Semitism.”

The Gerstel family affiliates with Temple Beit Torah, a Reform synagogue which has faced several incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in recent years.

The rally was a response to an act of anti-Semitism which occurred early in the morning, Friday, Aug. 4.

According to the Colorado Springs police, a swastika and the words “sig (sic) heil” — for “sieg heil” — were spray-painted on one side of Temple Beit Torah’s main sign. The word “sig” was also painted in black near the synagogue’s south entrance.

The Gerstels were among nearly 300 people at the rally who carried signs speaking out against hate and anti-Semitism.

Many neighbors of the synagogue participated in the rally at Bonforte Park near Temple Beit Torah, as well as Muslim, African-American, Christian and Jewish residents of Colorado Springs.

Sunday’s rally was organized by several clergy in the Colorado Springs area, including the Rev. Ahriana Platten, minister of Unity Spiritual Center in the Rockies.

The NAACP of Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming State-Area Conference publicized the rally through Facebook and other social media, urging citizens to respond publicly to the incident.

Temple Beit Torah is one of two synagogues in Colorado Springs, founded in 1992 as a Reform congregation. Membership is approximately 67 families.

Scott L. Levin, ADL Mountain States regional director, issued the following statement on Aug. 4: “The ADL condemns the hateful graffiti found at Temple Beit Torah. We commend neighbors of the synagogue for immediately alerting law enforcement to the situation and applaud the quick response of the Colorado Springs Police Dept. to the incident.

“ADL encourages the Police Dept. to investigate the vandalism as a potential bias-motivated hate crime.

“This incident supports our grave concern about the increased number of bias-motivated incidents, including acts of anti-Semitism, which are occurring in Colorado and across the country.

“In Colorado alone, ADL monitored 18 acts of anti-Semitism in 2015, 45 in 2016, and if the trend thus far for 2017 continues, we are worried that there will be over 60 incidents by the end of the year.”

This was the second anti-Semitic incident reported by Jewish organizations this summer in Colorado Springs.

In June, a sticker with the slogan “Fight Terror, Nuke Israel” was fixed to the door of Chabad Lubavitch of Southern Colorado.

An alleged white supremacist who is at large has been charged with the crime partly based on surveillance video provided by Chabad Rabbi Moshe Liberow.

Khurshid Qureshi, president of the Islamic Society of Colorado Springs board, spoke words of support at Sunday’s rally, along with Colorado Springs City Council President Richard Skorman, African-American leaders and members of the local Jewish community.

Participants wrote positive notes of support which will be delivered to Temple Beit Torah.

“It was heart-warming and inspiring to see so many citizens of Colorado Springs and neighboring states come together at the rally,” said Beit Torah President Jeff Ader.

“This was a visible action in support of our Jewish community as well as the diverse cultural and religious groups that make up the fabric of our city.”

The synagogue is planning an open house for the immediate neighborhood and the community. “It’s time to meet more of our neighbors and strengthen those supportive relationships,” stated Ader.

Copyright © 2017 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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