November 1, 2018
A synagogue in Irvine, California, was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti overnight Tuesday, just days after the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue.
According to NBC Los Angeles, employees arriving for work spotted the vandalism at the Beth Jacob Congregation at about 9:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The vandals spray-painted the words "F*** Jews" on the walls of the building, the report said. A spokesperson for the Irvine Police Department said police believe the graffiti was spray-painted overnight.
"Members of the Christian, Mormon and Muslim communities reached out to me after the horrific incident in Pittsburgh offering their support and solidarity," said Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, the rabbi of the congregation. "We are saddened that such hate exists everywhere and even in our backyard."
Irvine police "are fully engaged in trying to find the perpetrator and to ensure the safety of all groups," he added. "We're a resilient group and we're not going to let some fanatic affect us."
In a message shared on Facebook by Orange County Jewish Life Magazine, the synagogue's leaders said the hateful graffiti was "a cowardly act".
Security footage shows an individual "wearing a hoodie, sunglasses and a surgical facemask" jumping the fence to enter the premises, and spray-painting the message on the synagogue's outer wall, the message said.
The suspect also reportedly stole a bicycle from the synagogue's grounds.
"We are continuing to do everything we can to make our campus more secure, and we will continue to promote the message that we are stronger than hate," the message reads.
Allison Edwards, CEO of the nonprofit group OC Human Relations, encouraged citizens to report hate crimes and incidents.
"We really keep encouraging people to not let these things go unchecked or unreported," she said, according to NBC Los Angeles. "We continue to urge people to report crimes that are hate motivated -- it's the best way to reach out to communities and support them and to take action in the face of hate."
The Irvine PD said in a statement, "Chief (Mike) Hamel and the men and women of the Irvine Police Department denounce, in the strongest terms, this type of hateful act. We are committed to our mission, working in partnership with the community to preserving the peace."
The incident is the latest hate crime in a growing number of such crimes in the region. Hate crime incidents jumped last year, continuing a trend that began in 2015, according to the OC Human Relations annual report.
Last year, Muslims were the most targeted ethnic group at 13 percent, with Jews the second most targeted at 9 percent.