Graffiti depicting a hangman, a swastika and a quote saying “no mercy for Jews” was found on a fence in Bethesda, a predominantly Jewish area.
Shira Kramer and Jessie Tuchman
Authorities found antisemitic graffiti near the Bethesda Trolley Trail on Monday. Local officials say that this was the second incident targeting Jews in Montgomery County within three months.
The words “no mercy for Jews” along with a swastika and hangman were found on a fence surrounding the trail at the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Tuckerman Lane.
In a statement on Nov. 14, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said he is saddened his own community was affected by antisemitism and that this is still happening in the 21st century.
“We must support and uplift our Jewish community during this time and we must continue to not tolerate hate in any form in Montgomery County, the state of Maryland and in this nation,” Elrich said.
Many Jewish students at this university are deeply disturbed and frightened by this incident as well as a previous incident in Bethesda in August where someone spray-painted swastikas and white power symbols.
Josh Cohn, a freshman government and politics major, is worried that something like this could happen so close to where he lives.
“I live in the Bethesda area. My family and I would walk on the Trolley Trail every weekend during COVID,” Cohn said. “Things like that are in the news a lot, unfortunately, but this was closer to home for me.”
Many who live in the area resonate with this sentiment. Thomas Wolfson, a junior economics and history double major said he was saddened and angered by this occurrence, especially considering that the area has a sizable Jewish population.
“I never felt like an outsider for being Jewish because of the vibrant Jewish community that’s there but also just because of how accepting the overall community is,” Wolfson said. “To see such hateful images and words directed at us is upsetting.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were 2,717 antisemitic incidents in 2021, the represents the highest number of incidents on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979. That trend has continued this year.
This incident trails close behind Dave Chappelle’s antisemitic monologue on last week’s episode of Saturday Night Live, which garnered national attention.
After denouncing antisemitism and stating that he stands with his Jewish friends, Chappelle said that he sees where people could get the idea that Jews run Hollywood.
“It’s not a crazy thing to think,” Chappelle said. “But it’s a crazy thing to say out loud.”
Wolfson thinks he would have liked Chappelle’s monologue if he had criticized Kanye more.
“It was at least nice to see that this generated a discussion on why a lot of Jews have gone to Hollywood historically,” Wolfson said. “That’s something that should be discussed more before all these antisemitic tropes about Jews and Hollywood can be perpetrated.”
In addition to national discussions about antisemitism, local leaders in Montgomery County continue to actively combat antisemitism, but students question what the Montgomery County Council is actually doing to help.
Matt Shea, a junior journalism major, worries that his community is not doing enough to prevent incidents like these from happening again.
“While I am not surprised, I am scared and disappointed in my home community,” Shea said. “I am hoping that the leaders of my community will stand against this hate and take the appropriate actions to ensure that everyone can feel safe.”
Community members gathered to protest against the hateful antisemitic incident on Monday night.
“As a community, we have to come out and show solidarity with each other and make sure we all understand implications of such hate,” community leader and pediatrician Giorgio Kulp said in a statement.
In a tweet on Nov. 15, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office said they are working alongside the Montgomery County Police and Elrich to find the person responsible for the graffiti. No updates have been provided since then.
“Hate has no place in our community and our office is dedicated to the aggressive prosecution of hate crimes,” said the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.