(JTA) — Swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti were daubed on a Jewish center and a nearby church in suburban Washington, D.C.
After the vandalism was discovered Tuesday, the Fairfax Country Police opened an investigation into the incidents at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia and the Little River United Church of Christ in Annandale, Virginia.
“Hitler was right,” swastikas and the “SS” symbol were found spray-painted on the exterior of the JCC building.
Jeff Dannick, the JCC’s director general, said it was upsetting to have his community targeted on Passover but that the holiday, which recalls the biblical story of Jewish emancipation from slavery in Egypt, held relevant lessons.
“We retell that story generation to generation every year so that we never forget,” he told the Washington Post Tuesday. “It’s a painful reminder of how ugly and dangerous the world can be, but also how we can overcome it.”
The JCC released a statement Tuesday, saying, “We will not be deterred from our mission of being an open and welcoming place for people of all backgrounds as we continue our operations as normal.”
Less than a mile away, a church building was also vandalized with swastikas, as well as homophobic and Islamophobic slogans.
“Defend America; No Muslims,” was spray-painted across the church door. “Jesus knows no traitors” was written over the church’s Holy Week schedule, and a sign that read “Say NO to anti-Muslim bigotry” was crossed out.
“It’s just heartbreaking to see this kind of thing happen today,” Rev. Dr. David Lindsey told the local NBC station, saying he suspected his church was targeted because it welcomes diversity.
JCC and church community members began to remove the graffiti on Tuesday.
Fairfax Police Spokeswoman Tawny Wright said the graffiti were daubed between 1 and 4 a.m. Tuesday morning. She said the department was looking for the perpetrators, including by reviewing surveillance footage.
“We are investigating it. It is a crime – not only to spray paint – but it’s a more severe penalty if the crime is bias-motivated like it is in these cases and we are working very diligently,” Wright told local reporters.