Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont (Screenshot/Google Streetview)
Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont (Screenshot/Google Streetview)

Police probing ‘small incident’ of vandalism at Piedmont synagogue

As Berkeley prepares for a “No Marxism in America” rally this Sunday that Mayor Jesse Arreguin is calling a white nationalist gathering, Kehilla Community Synagogue in neighboring Piedmont is dealing with its own incident of hate speech.

Three small stickers were placed on the welcoming sign next to the synagogue’s front steps on Grand Avenue. Piedmont police are investigating the incident, which was reported on Aug. 17.

An Aug. 23 email sent by synagogue leaders to congregants characterized it as a “small incident” that should not cause significant concern. Two of the stickers read “Marxism is Murder” and the third was a racist attack on the Black Lives Matter banner that hangs over the front of Kehilla.

“We did not find the experience itself threatening to us as a community,” Kehilla Executive Director Michael Saxe-Taller said in an interview. “Rather it is an illustration of the broader issues we are greatly concerned about — racism, anti-Semitism.

“Our sense of security was not challenged or altered by the fact that some confused people feeling hate decided to put that on our sign,” Saxe-Taller said. “We feel quite secure because we’re part of a diverse community that is way stronger than these few people who did this thing.”

Saxe-Taller said the stickers were so small that several people entering the building didn’t even notice them on the sign. He said the synagogue wasn’t paying much attention to the incident or letting it distract from Kehilla’s commitment to racial and social justice.

“We have our energies focused on the growing visibility of the hate that’s out there,” Saxe-Taller said. “We didn’t want to give credence to those who put it up there.”

The incident at Kehilla likely occurred the same day that two classroom windows were smashed about 10 miles away at Temple Israel of Alameda in what police there are treating as a possible hate crime. An Aug. 18 vigil at the temple drew hundreds of people from around the East Bay.

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster z"l was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.