Police investigating possible hate crime at Columbus synagogue

Local News

Police are investigating a possible hate crime against a synagogue in midtown Columbus.

At least eight signs were found Tuesday morning plastered on Temple Israel’s property on Wildwood Avenue, Columbus Police Maj. J.D. Hawk told News 3 Wednesday morning.

The signs claim to promote a group called “PatrioFront.U.S.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center which monitors hate groups, “Patriot Front is an image-obsessed organization that rehabilitated the explicitly fascist agenda of Vanguard America with garish patriotism.”

Patriot Front is a white nationalist hate group that formed in the aftermath of the deadly August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Temple Israel President Tiffany Broda said the signs were shocking and disturbing.

“To me the sinister aspect is this particular group disguises themselves as Patriots,” she said. “Yet they are a hate group, a nationally recognized hate group. And though we don’t want to give them publicity, we think that it’s important to bring this out of the shadows.” 

The signs found at Temple Israel have a red, white and blue patriotic feel. They have slogans such as “Reclaim America,” “Better Dead than Red,” and “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Victory.”

“There is no direct anti-Semitic message on the signs, but they could be interpreted as anti-Semitic because of where they were placed,” Hawk said.

Temple Israel said one sign has a historical anti -Semitic meaning.

“There was a message equating, implying that Jews are Communist,” she said. “Which is a very old anti-Semitic trope, dating back many decades in this country and that has made us quite angry.” 

No individual has taken credit for the signs found at the synagogue, Hawk said. The signs easily came off the buildings and signs, leaving no visible damage, Hawk said.

Temple Israel Rabbi Beth Schwartz confirmed the posters and said Columbus police were beefing up patrols around the synagogue.

Another local synagogue, Shearith Israel Synagogue off River Road in north Columbus, did not have any signs this time, but police confirm that it was a target several months ago. The identical signs were plaster at Shearith Israel. The incident was reported to police, but not made public.

Police have increased patrols around both synagogues.

If she could speak to the men responsible for this, the rabbi would have a specific message.

“I would express my sadness that they don’t have a broader view about what it takes to be an American,” she said. “That they don’t have a better understanding of American history. That I would be happy to show them a way to learn more, and a way to see a much more fuller, brighter more vibrant picture of Columbus and America.” 

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