Californians march, light Hanukkah candles to decry antisemitic graffiti

Staff members at Bel Aire Elementary School, near San Francisco, discovered antisemitic graffiti spray-painted on the school’s playground in early November

By MATTHEW PERA/THE MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL
December 3, 2018 10:38
2 minute read.
California's Golden Gate Bridge, near San Francisco

California's Golden Gate Bridge, near San Francisco. (photo credit: RICH NIEWIROSKI JR./WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

 
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(TNS) — Demonstrators marched through Tiburon, a California town on the northern end of the San Francisco Bay, in protest on Sunday and then lit a menorah for the first night of Hanukkah, acts meant to decry bigotry and celebrate diversity in the face of recent antisemitic expressions that have plagued the town and the country.

“I want to make sure this is not ignored,” said Aubrey Erez, who organized the march, “and that our children know we are going to be a voice and we are going to stand up for them.”

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Erez lives in Tiburon and her son attends school at Bel Aire Elementary School. Staff members at Bel Aire discovered antisemitic graffiti spray-painted on the school’s playground in early November, less than a week after a gunman massacred 11 worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

School officials condemned the act and Nancy Lynch, superintendent of the Reed Union School District, sent a message to parents about the incident days later, but some said the response wasn’t enough.

“It was brushed under the rug,” Erez said.

The graffiti incident is under investigation by the Tiburon Police Department, according to Chief Michael Cronin.

Discovery of the vandalism came after an incident in September, when Tiburon residents reportedly found antisemitic writing etched in chalk on a parking lot downtown.

The Tiburon Town Council held a special meeting on Thursday to formally acknowledge the recent expressions of bigotry and passed a resolution declaring the town opposed to hatred and intolerance.

“I believe we as leaders need to take a strong stance and communicate to the public that Tiburon is a place where we’re not going to tolerate antisemitism or discrimination of any kind,” said Councilwoman Holli Thier, who initiated the special meeting and drafted the resolution.

Thier said she wanted the council to act quickly, in order to send a message to the community.

Council members voted unanimously in support of the gesture.


“Bigotry, prejudice and discrimination in any form represents the pinnacle of ignorance,” said Councilman David Kulik. “There is not a place for that in our town.”

Paul Steinberg, a rabbi at Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon, said a community response is essential in the face of hatred.

“Whenever we see hatred, bigotry or alienation bubble up, it’s really impressive when a community stands together against it,” he said, “because that’s what it takes to defeat it.”

Faith leaders are increasingly concerned about antisemitic expressions in today’s culture, Steinberg said. But he’s grateful for the outpouring of support he’s received from his community in the wake of recent events.

“The Jewish way is to keep moving forward,” he said. “Keep showing up, keep living and keep standing up for what you believe in, despite hatred and violence.”

This holiday season, a 9-foot menorah donated to the town by Erez and her family is on display next to the traditional holiday tree at Tiburon’s Fountain Plaza. For the first time in Tiburon’s history, it will remain in the public space throughout the duration of Hanukkah.

“We’re going to continue throwing light into the darkness,” Steinberg said. “That’s what this holiday is about.”

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©2018 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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