For the second time, a Messianic Synagogue Sha’arei Shalom. in Cary, North Carolina, has been targeted with anti-Semitic threats and vandalism.
In the last week of December, local authorities received a call about cars being vandalized and shortly after, there was another call reporting damage at Sha’arei Shalom. When police arrived, they found the cars had been vandalized with orange spray paint and busted headlights. At the synagogue, windows had been smashed with bricks and the same orange paint was on the sidewalk in addition to “F U” written on the door, according to local WRAL News.
Surveillance video showed a woman throwing bricks through the window of the temple. After an investigation, police arrested local resident Lisa Marie Burns, 57, and connected her to both the vandalism at the Synagogue and the cars.
“During interviews with the suspect, she admitted to both acts of vandalism and indicated her disdain for people of other religions and ethnic backgrounds,” Cary police said in a release. Charges against Burns include injury to personal property, teaching ethnic intimidation and injury to real property. Burns was released after posting a $2,000 secured bond.
“We have not had anything like this before. So, it seems to be a wave. It seems to be a season where this is certainly swelled here for some reason,” Rabbi Seth Klayman told local news. “From our vantage point, we are seeing an increase in what we consider anti-Semitism.”
Rabbi Klayman isn’t wrong. Not only did 2018 include one of the deadliest anti-Semitic attacks in U.S. history in Pittsburgh, but the Anti-Defamation League’s annual tracking of anti-Semitic incidents is revealing disturbing data. In the 2017 report, they noted that “the number of anti-Semitic incidents was nearly 60 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking incident data in the 1970s.”
The ADL has not yet released a 2018 report, but another recent ADL report that tracked online anti-Semitism during the U.S. midterm elections revealed that many platforms once considered benign are now common hotbeds for anti-Semitic conspiracies and attacks.
The majority of anti-Semitic attacks and incidents online and in person place a broad target on Judaism and are unlikely to distinguish Messianic Judaism from the wider movement. That could be the case in Cary, where Sha’arei Shalom Synagogue has now been targeted twice.
In November, William Josephus Warden, 20, was arrested and charged with ethnic intimidation, after making violent, anti-Semitic threats over the synagogue’s intercom as well as placing a burning cross across from a church. Police said Warden was motivated by the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. He is being investigated by the FBI and has been recommended for mental evaluation while his bond is set at $75,000.
“We’re not going to respond by being afraid. We’re not going to respond with despair. We’re not even going to respond with bitterness,” Rabbi Seth Klayman told local media. “The ultimate goal would be to see a transformed heart.”
In response to the attacks, Sha’arei Shalom launched a sermon series titled “What is Anti-Semitism and What Can I Do About It?” and on January 5, held a prayer walk for the congregation with the broader Cary community.