The irony that a swastika was recently discovered on a sign that stands near the Jewish Museum of Maryland shortly after the opening of its latest exhibition, “Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust and Humanity,” was not lost on Rabbi Etan Mintz.

“It all reminds us that this is not only history; we have to be vigilant that our society doesn’t fall prey to these acts of hatred, as with what’s going on with the desecration of [Jewish] cemeteries and JCCs,” said Rabbi Mintz, whose congregation, B’nai Israel, is adjacent to the JMM on Lloyd Street in East Baltimore.

Approximately 60 people participated in a “Demonstration to Erase Hate” led by Rabbi Mintz yesterday morning in front of the historic B’nai Israel. Besides the rabbi, speakers included Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, City Councilmen Zeke Cohen (D-1st.) and Robert Stokes Sr. (D-12th), Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-46th), Baltimore Jewish Council Executive Director Howard Libit, Capt. Jarron Jackson of Baltimore Police Dept. Southeastern District, Historic Jonestown Corp. President Lindsay Thompson, and Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg of Beth Am Synagogue in Reservoir Hill. Also in attendance was Rabbi Chai Posner of Beth Tfiloh Congregation in Pikesville.

“We wanted to condemn this act and to be in unity and amplify the voices of love to drown out hatred,” said Rabbi Mintz. “This was one small act, but we wanted to send a message. Small acts add up, and we’re all in this together. This wasn’t just about anti-Semitism.”

Rabbi Mintz said the swastika was discovered on Thursday night on a sign for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and he was alerted about it on Friday morning by a Baltimore City Police officer. He said police told him there are no leads in the case at this time, and that the swastika was removed from the sign.

Rabbi Mintz said that this was the first time he knew of anti-Semitic graffiti near the JMM/B’nai Israel/Lloyd Street Synagogue compound since he came to the congregation in Aug. 2012. “We have a wonderful community here, thank God,” he said.

Rabbi Mintz addressed the matter in his Shabbat sermon this weekend, and with the help of congregants Will Eastman, Rick Gwynallen and Adam Poliak the rally was organized in 12 hours.

“In the face of racism, bigotry, Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, we will continue to stand up and speak out,” Rabbi Mintz said at Shabbat services. “Our tradition teaches us that we must not ignore hatred, we must confront it, struggle with it, so that we can ultimately persevere. …

“Just as this swastika has been removed from our sight, we intend to erase hatred from our communities.”

At yesterday morning’s gathering, participants – which included B’nai Israel congregants, neighborhood residents, several media outlets and others – locked hands and sang “Oseh Shalom” and other songs in English and Hebrew.

“Everyone was very moved,” said Rabbi Mintz. “It was very special. This was a small act of hate, but hatred can lead to actions. So we came together as a community of faiths and tried to bring a sense of unity.”

Rabbi Burg said he felt being at the rally was important. “It’s essential the Jewish community stands together united against hate,” he said. “Beth Am stands in solidarity with our Jewish institutional neighbors and against anyone who spreads anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia or general xenophobia in our city, our state and our country.”

Photos courtesy of Will Eastman

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