'Red, white, and blue version of ISIS’ - Columbus temple leaders respond after vandalism from alleged hate group

Updated: Jul. 31, 2019 at 2:19 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A synagogue in Columbus is banding together in the face of anti-semitism this week.

According to authorities, Temple Israel, located on Wildwood Avenue, was vandalized with hate flyers from an alleged white supremacy group on Tuesday morning.

Leaders of the Temple say that while the vandalism is frustrating, it is the messages the posters are sending that is what has really upset them.

“The posters were from a white supremacist group. They were messages of hate about white supremacy. There was a message implying that Jews are Communist, which is a very old anti-Semitic trope and that has made us quite angry,” said Rabbi Beth Schwartz.

Temple President Tiffany Broda said the messages were “very shocking and disturbing.” She said she believes the flyers were posted to place fear and division into their congregation.

"To me, it just feels like a red, white, and blue version of ISIS,” said one Temple of Israel congregation member.

The posters, which have a patriotic color theme and slogans such as “Reclaim America,” or “Better Dead than Red,” claim to promote a group called “Patriot Front."

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) who monitors extremist groups across the country has designated Patriot Front as an extremist white-nationalist hate group.

The group was reportedly formed when it broke off from Vanguard America in the aftermath of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports that “Patriot Front espouses racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance under the guise of preserving the “ethnic and cultural origins” of their European ancestors.”

Columbus Police say that church surveillance video showed two suspected males entering the property at around 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday and tacking up posters around the outside of the Temple.

The investigation is ongoing at this time but authorities say that If the suspects are located, they could be facing at minimum criminal trespassing charges.

News of the vandalism spread quickly on Facebook. Many local citizens expressed their anger and sadness at the targeted messages.

“As a lifelong person of Columbus, I am absolutely appalled at the actions of those people. I am so sorry that someone did that to your place of worship,” said one comment.

“This is absolutely terrible," said another.

Former Columbus Mayor and U.S. Senate Candidate Teresa Tomlinson released the following statement in response to the vandalism:

“This week’s vile attack on a Columbus synagogue perpetrated by a white supremacist hate group with members across Georgia is only the latest in a disturbing trend of increased anti-semitism and hate crimes across America since 2016. But while we are disturbed by this heinous act we will not hide in fear and we will not be deterred from our fight for justice and equality. I am, like Rabbi Beth Schwartz, thankful that no one was hurt and that the local police responded quickly, and, yet, I pray for the end of such hatred and ignorance. We must exhibit strength by standing in solidarity with the members of Columbus’ Temple Israel and all Jewish Americans. Make no mistake about it the hate-crime vandals are not patriots as they propose. The members of the Columbus Jewish community are our neighbors and patriots. I stand with them and against hate. All Georgians should join us in declaring that we are intolerant of this intolerance. Not in our community. Not in our state. Not in our country.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, this makes for the fifth known incident by this white supremacy group in Columbus, this year alone.

Despite the uneasy situation, Temple members said they will not be afraid of hate but will instead seek to find peace.

“We will remain vigilant as a congregation, vigilant as a Jewish community. We don’t hide our heads in fear, we have no reason in Columbus to want to hide,” said Schwartz.

Temple members said they will also continue to spread their positive values throughout the community.

“We believe that if we do that here in our own place, then love, faith, compassion, and unity will prevail over hate and decisiveness,” said Schwartz.

Columbus police said their investigation into the matter is ongoing but as this time no arrests have been reported in the matter.

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