In the second reported hate crime in the Madison area in the last month, a west side synagogue was defaced with swastika symbols and derogatory terms at the end of April.
Three swastika symbols and the words “die Jew” were marked on Beth Israel Synagogue, 1406 Mound St., on the corner of South Randall and Mound streets. Two large swastikas were written — not spray-painted — on the front doors at eye level, and another smaller swastika and the words were found on the southwest corner of the building.
Steve Morrison, executive director of the Madison Jewish Community Council, said the swastika symbol is a “very, very chilling and frightening thing.”
“This is a very, very serious hate crime that was perpetrated here in Madison,” Morrison said. “The swastika has significant meaning that represents the murder of 6 million Jews.”
According to Morrison, the two swastikas appeared on the main entry doors to the synagogue April 25, and he is “pretty sure” the other vandalism occurred sometime on April 27. The building was inspected April 25, but Morrison said the other two writings were not seen at that time.
“It’s probably been at least a decade since we’ve had any synagogue defaced with swastikas,” Morrison said.
Steve Modugno, a teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin for biblical literature, said he does not allow any hateful comments toward other religions in his classes.
“It is completely unacceptable to treat any sector of society that way; it’s just so ignorant,” Modugno said, referring to the markings on the synagogue.
According to Morrison, the symbols and words were removed immediately.
On April 20, deputies from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office reported to another possible hate crime in the Town of Windsor near Madison. Deputies found a Hmong family’s pickup truck had been set on fire and the letters “KKK” were spray-painted on the side of the vehicle.
Elise Schaffer, public information officer for the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, said the sheriff is not saying definitely the incident is a hate crime, but “it is certainly a possibility.”
“No amount of hate, whether it’s words or violence, is ever going to be tolerated in this community,” Morrison said.
Morrison said if someone in Madison knows who did the writings, he or she should get in touch with Crime Stoppers to give police a lead so “we can make sure it’s not done again.”
“It’s a terrible thing, whether it’s an African-American individual targeted with the hate letters ‘KKK’ or a swastika directed at Jews,” Morrison said.