Vandalism at Havurah House

A version of this press release was shared with the Addison Independent.

At Havurah Monday morning, our Director of Education, Sarit Katzew arrived to start preparing for Hebrew School to find graffiti on the front door, which included two swastikas.

Sarit notified the police and Emily Joselson and Lauri London joined Sarit at the house and reached out to other steering committee members to decide on a response. The police came by to take our report and investigate. At this time they are treating this as an isolated incident. With their approval, the door was washed, removing all signs of the graffiti prior to the arrival of children for Hebrew School. An abbreviated version of this letter was handed out to Hebrew School parents, and emailed to Hebrew School families.

Sarit let the leadership of other local congregations know about the incident. We also reported it to the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, organizations that have been tracking hate crimes. The steering committee had a meeting  scheduled for Tuesday, November 15th, and  decided to wait until after that meeting to make any other notification.

Our apologies if you heard about this through the rumor mill or the news. Once the police report was out, reporters started calling. At the meeting this evening, we decided to get the facts out to our members first. Meanwhile, a television reporter was circling Middlebury in her car, waiting to catch someone after the meeting, and Addison Independent reporters were waiting to have emails returned.

The consensus of the steering committee and concerned members this evening was that this is a hate crime by any definition and requires a response, but that we don’t want to sensationalize the incident and give the perpetrator any more attention than is necessary. We received messages of support from churches and other religious organizations in town, who wanted to know what they can do to help. Some of their leadership plan to attend Shabbat services at Havurah, Saturday, November 19 at 10a to show their solidarity. We will be coordinating with other faith communities through the Middlebury Area Clergy Association to plan a public event to speak out against hate crimes targeting any minority the first weekend in December.

Havurah was the target this week for the first time that anyone can remember. In some respects this may be considered an isolated incident, but it is part of a pattern of malicious speech and actions elsewhere in our community and across our country.

We will continue to be vigilant about and mindful of any acts of ignorance or hatred.