ADL offers reward in Modesto synagogue vandalism

Vandals using black spray paint were recently caught on videotape covering  the walls of Congregation Beth Shalom in Modesto with swastikas, hateful epithets and crossed-out Jewish symbols, causing more than $1,000 worth of damage, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

With repairs completed, the ADL has offered a $2,500 reward leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

“I still scratch my head and say why do people want to inflict this sort of harm and hurt on the Jewish community,” said Nancy Appel, associate director of the ADL’s central Pacific region. “The sad fact is there are haters out there, and we have to be vigilant against the hatred.”

Security cameras caught two individuals vandalizing the synagogue’s exterior around 2 a.m. March 18. The Modesto Police Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime.

“This was not just a single tag,” said Appel, who viewed a portion of the video footage. “They knew what they were doing. That hit me. They weren’t just wandering by. They planned this. But the community will bounce back.”

Following the incident, the synagogue received an outpouring of support from the Modesto community in the form of e-mails, cards, flowers and donations for repairs. The Sacramento-based Graffiti Removal Services offered its assistance for free to clean up any remaining tagging.

“What a Jewish concept,” said Laura Biewer, Beth Shalom’s executive director. “People didn’t just say sorry. They followed up to say, ‘What can I do to help?’ ”

The Modesto Police Department has an anonymous tip line for citizens to call with information about this or other anti-Semitic acts. The number is (209) 521-4636.