On Saturday night as Jews initiated the penitential Selichot cycle of prayers leading up to Rosh Hashanah, someone was outside two of the Orthodox synagogues in Seattle’s Seward Park neighborhood, spray-painting swastikas, the word “Nazi,” and “Fourth Riech” (misspelled) on the doors and sidewalks outside. Of course everyone’s very upset here, understandably so, but my wife’s initial reaction on hearing the news may be right: That it was a disgruntled Jewish teenager or some disturbed person from the community itself who did it
The choice of Selichot night, a solemn occasion, struck me as significant. No one outside the community would know it was anything special. So did the misspelling of Reich. Would a real neo-Nazi get that wrong? And painting simply the word “Nazi”? This doesn’t quite add up. The neighborhood around the two shuls is predominantly Jewish and African-American. Somehow I don’t see black youths painting Nazi iconography. In turn, the synagogues are out of the way, not well known in Seattle, geographically isolated, and quite hard to find. An odd choice, all around, for a genuine anti-Semite.
For what it’s worth, my prediction is that if the culprit is found, he will turn out to be Jewish. It reminds me of my own experience growing up. In our Reform Hebrew school class, the boys routinely doodled swastikas and SS insignia on their notebooks. When the befuddled, ineffectual teacher turned his back on us, boys would be jumping up and giving him Nazi salutes. Let’s see if my guess turns out to be right.