We all breathed a sigh of relief this week when Tropical Storm Gordon and its destructive winds and storm clouds rumbled ashore well east of us in Alabama and spared us a significant rain event. However, while we kept a collective eye on weather reports earlier in the week, we were not prepared for the destructive force that could be felt from two spray paint cans.
Sometime on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning (authorities are unable to determine a specific timeline), one, but probably two individuals, each bearing a can of spray paint, sprayed swastikas and white supremacist terms on the rear of the Northshore Jewish Congregation’s (NJC) building.
The words and symbols these craven cowards elected to spray on the side of the temple’s walls were chosen to drive fear into the hearts of our Jewish brethren on the North Shore. At the same time, they hoped to somehow elevate themselves by comparison.
Somehow they assumed their spray of hate could unnerve and fluster the members of NJC and drive fear into the hearts and minds of their fellow Jews.
They were, in fact, mistaken.
Had they stuck around long enough after doing their dastardly and cowardly deed, they would have found a united and determined community on both sides of Lake Pontchartrain – from all walks of life and representing all religious forms of worship – ready to denounce their attempts to demean the Jewish people and to challenge our freedom to gather and practice our faith openly and without fear of repression.
Today the stains of their misguided intentions were pressure washed away by a “good Samaritan,” an apt phrase for a man who is not of the Jewish faith, but who saw the reports, was sickened by them and decided to take the initiative and remove the hate-filled slogans and signs with special chemicals even before the temple administrator arrived on the scene.
On behalf of the Jewish community, we thanked Stephen Ladeche for his “mitzvah,” a word he may not know as intimately as us, but one which we hope informs him of how we all feel towards his actions. He removed the spray of hate with one of love, acceptance and tolerance. For that we are indebted to him and to all from outside of our community who have rushed to express their unquestioned support and love.
As we approach the High Holidays and turn inwardly to express our hopes for a new year, let us also turn outwardly to thank those who have similarly expressed dismay at this anti-Semitic vitriol and who have proven their true worth as our friends.
And to all of us: “May you be inscribed for a good and sweet year.”