Antisemitic graffiti outside Leeds synagogue sparks police probe

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Police have launched an investigation after antisemitic graffiti was painted on a sign outside a synagogue in north Leeds.

A swastika symbol with the word “Kikes” was sprayed or daubed onto a sign at the front entrance of the Etz Chaim synagogue in Alwoodley overnight and was discovered this morning.
A post on social media suggested that there is other similar antisemitic graffiti daubed on the pavement outside the gate.The graffiti was described by campaigners as having been "chosen to wound its community as deeply as possible".

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "At 8:41am today, police received a report of anti-Semitic graffiti at the Etz Chaim Synagogue, in Harrogate Road, Leeds.

"Officers attended the scene and a hate crime has been recorded and is under investigation.

"Officers from the Outer North East Neighbourhood Policing Team are aware of the incident and are increasing their patrols of the area to reassure the community and are liaising with key representatives.

"The incident is believed to have happened overnight. Anyone who witnessed any suspicious activity or who has any information that could assist the investigation is asked to contact the Outer North East team via 101 quoting crime number 13170471135 or call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

Rabbi Shalom Kupperman, minister at the synagogue, said the graffiti "has to be seen as a moral rather than a criminal issue".

He said: "I understand that the police have to do something about it but I can't say I feel threatened in my community.

"Somehow in this society there are always some sort of dormant ideas which should not be there in the 21st century.

"If this would be some sort of wake-up call, who knows, maybe it will be a springboard to better things happening."

Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton said in a statement: “As a Jew, the vandalism at the Etz Chaim synagogue in Alwoodley was particularly hurtful for me on a personal level, but to happen in my own constituency was even more of a disappointment.

"It is important we treat anti-Semitism the same way we oppose all forms of hate, regardless of religion – and respond by promoting tolerance, love and unity.

"This was not only vandalism, but an anti-Semitic hate crime and an attack on an entire community.

"Make no mistake, there is no place for this hate in Leeds North East – a constituency that prides itself on multiculturalism where people of all faiths, and none, work and live together peacefully.”

Stephen Silverman, Director of Investigations and Enforcement at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “Etz Chaim synagogue has been daubed with the symbol of the Holocaust and a slur carefully chosen to wound its community as deeply as possible. 

"It is clearly intended to instil fear, and must be treated by the authorities as a threat to the Jewish community served by the synagogue. The perpetrators must be brought to justice quickly and face the maximum sentence allowable under the law.

“For the past two years, 37 per cent of British Jews have been concealing their Judaism in public and almost one in three have considered leaving the UK due to antisemitism. Meanwhile, a mere 39 per cent of British Jews feel confident that antisemitic hate crimes against them would be prosecuted.

"Antisemitic crime surged by 45 per cent between 2014 and 2016, making 2016 the worst year on record. The early indications are that 2017 is likely to be worse. Meanwhile, against this backdrop, only 1.9 per cent of antisemitic crimes were prosecuted last year. Antisemites increasingly appear not to fear the law.”

The Community Security Trust, a charity working against antisemitism and racism in British society, said in a statement: “CST is working closely with Etz Chaim Synagogue and with the Police regarding the antisemitic graffiti that was discovered on the property this morning.
"As you might expect, such vile graffiti in a prominent location in the heart of the Jewish community has caused widespread upset and concern.”

A message on the North-West Friends of Israel Twitter site read: "This happened in Leeds last night. Whether it's left wing or right wing anti Semitism it's abhorrent.”