Antisemitic vandalism blindsides WJ community again


Photo courtesy of Bryan Kibet

The vandalism on the corner of Old Georgetown Road and Tuckerman Lane depicts a swastika and a message of “Ameri(c)a Awak(e)”. The vandalism was washed off shortly after the police were contacted.

On Nov. 14, the Bethesda community was yet again met with White Supremacist ‘Nazi’ vandalism. There were multiple locations of the vandalism, some depicted swastikas, some depicted hateful slogans and one depicted the hangings of Jewish people. The hateful messages call back to when the WJ building was vandalized with similar messages almost a year ago.

The vandalisms occurred in multiple places around the community. There was a swastika painted on the side of a brick wall on the corner of Old Georgetown Road and Tuckerman Lane. More were spotted along the Bethesda Trolley Trail, depicting a graphic scene of people being hung from a noose next to a slogan of “No More Jews”.

The Bethesda/North Bethesda community has a large Jewish population. According to Bethesda Magazine, there are over 100,000 Jewish people in Montgomery County, many of whom reside in lower Montgomery County. The graphic images that target Jewish people in particular have made some people feel that this community is not doing enough to combat the hateful messages.

“It’s literally just disgusting. The blatant antisemitism, which goes hand in hand with the blatant racism that goes on around here, [and] the blatant homophobia that goes on around here. It’s just too much, when is enough [of this] enough?” senior Sydney Morgenstern said.

News of the vandalism quickly spread throughout the county. Antisemitism is an issue currently in the news because of many celebrities and people in power having controversy with antisemetic comments. Montgomery County County Executive March Elrich issued a statement on the vandalisms.

“Antisemitism, hate, and attempts at intimidation, in any form, should not exist nor be tolerated anywhere, especially in a community like Montgomery County. I have had to personally deal with antisemitism throughout my entire life, and I have always hoped that there would be a day in my lifetime when it would no longer be a part of our society. Sadly, from pop culture icons to right wing hate groups, we are witnessing a rise in antisemitism throughout this nation. I never imagined we would be at this place in the 21st century,” Elrich said.

Many in the community are concerned about how the vandalisms are repeat occurrences. Last year, the vandalisms occurred on the school itself and in other places around the community. In response to the events, WJ administration organized a rally with the BSU (Black Student Union), HLCC (Hispanic/Latin Culture Club) and MSU (Muslim Student Union).

Furthermore, the “Stand Up WJ” initiative was created in response to the events from last year. This initiative was created to raise awareness of different forms of discrimination among the WJ community to prevent such events from happening again. The JSU (Jewish Student Union) is holding a meeting this Thursday on how to combat the new vandalisms.

It is really hard to do something at this school, just because there have been people who have done things and the school hasn’t really reciprocated it. I’m pretty sure they showed Schindler’s List one year and people laughed. So I would say doing a walk out or having an assembly on antisemitism, but I just don’t know how effective that would be.

— Rebeka Dychtwald

These events have prompted discussion within the WJ administration on how to handle the situation. Administration is ready to work with students at WJ and neighboring schools around the community to raise awareness and prevent situations such as this from happening again.

“We have to communicate with the other schools, I am more than happy to facilitate communication with the adults at Whitman. If the students can communicate and maybe include BCC, Churchill and other surrounding schools we can all work together. [The] kids could plan a big rally, they can plan a bunch of different things where we would help support,” Principal Jennifer Baker said.