MIAMI (JTA) – Vandals defaced a synagogue in Hollywood, Fla.
Hate messages and cryptic warnings including “I’m watching you,” and “[expletive] Jews” appeared on B’nai Sephardim, a Sephardic synagogue, the Miami Herald reported. The synagogue serves about 700 families, according to the B’nai Sephardim website.
Hollywood Police Chief Frank Fernandez said on Wednesday that his department takes “any type of hate messages very seriously,” and promised a thorough investigation.
“These are individuals that want to spread hate and there is no place for that in our community,” he said.
Fernandez said the offensive painted vitriol appeared sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning. The gate of the synagogue had been left open overnight because construction crews were working late.
The Anti-Defamation League decried the incident. Hava L. Holzhauer, ADL’s Florida regional director, said Wednesday night that the vandalism “is damaging to the community. It is physical damage to a place of worship and it’s also emotional damage.”
Rabbi Leol Benhamu told Miami Herald news partner CBS4 that seeing the spray painted messages was painful.
“That bring up memories of the past, Holocaust memories and persecution for Jews. I got upset,” Benhamu told the station.
The Hollywood incident joins a string of hate-inspired vandalism in the area. On March 8, a 24-year-old man was arrested after police say he yelled at the son of a rabbi in front of a Miami Beach synagogue in Arabic and then threatened to cut his head off.
In February, hate messages appeared on homes, mailboxes and fences in Miami Gardens. There were several incidents last year, including one in September where a swastika and the letters “KKK” appeared on a temporary sign at Temple Emanu-el, the oldest Conservative Jewish congregation in Miami Beach.