This year, the start of Hanukkah was met with a spate of anti-Semitism, including an apparent attack at a California synagogue, and at a school in France that was defaced with graffiti in German declaring, “Jews prohibited.” Even President-elect Donald Trump was bombarded with anti-Semitic tweets after he sent good wishes to those celebrating the holiday.
In the case of the California synagogue, Rabbi Boruch Rabinowitz arrived at the Living Torah Center Chabad in Santa Monica on Sunday morning to discover feces and rice smeared across the front window of the synagogue.
Although there were no anti-Semitic messages found on the building, the timing and location of the defacement, near the prominently displayed menorah, have led Rabinowitz and others in the congregation to believe that it was a religiously motivated attack.
“This seems kind of intentional,” assistant Rabbi Dovid Tenenbaum told the Los Angeles Times. “With a religious artifact in the window, we have to assume so.”
Santa Monica police officers took a report at the scene of the crime but, the Times noted, there were no witnesses.
Meanwhile, in suburban Paris, swastikas and anti-Semitic messages were found spray-painted across the front of a school named for Anne Frank in Montreuil. Frank was the young Holocaust victim whose published diary is one of the most famous accounts of Jewish life in Europe under the Nazis.
Police are reportedly investigating the vandalism, but as in the case of the incident in Santa Monica, there were no witnesses or security cameras to capture the vandals. Still, Montreuil Mayor Patrice Bessac condemned the graffiti on Twitter and declared, “Those who allow themselves to cross the red line must know that they will be exposed to severe punishment,” according to the Israeli news site YNet.
Najat Belkacem, France’s education minister, echoed Bessac’s sentiment, tweeting, “The inscriptions on Montreuil’s Anne Frank School are despicable. These actions will not remain unpunished.”
The school’s former principal, Juliette Timsit, posted photos of the hateful graffiti on Facebook.
“This is the school that was targeted, particularly because of its name, Anne Frank,” she wrote, according to a translation published by YNet and the Times of Israel. “I was very proud to be a principal in this school. I love it. I am deeply affected by this and can barely hold back the tears.”
Both France and the United States have experienced recent surges in anti-Semitism. According to the Jewish Agency for Israel, the organization responsible for aliyah, or Jewish immigration to Israel from other parts of the world, a record 8,000 Jews relocated from France to Israel in 2015, more than any other country in Europe. The majority reportedly cited a steady increase in anti-Semitism over the past 15 years as their primary reason for leaving.
In the United States, a new wave of American anti-Semitism really began over the course of the 2016 presidential election. According to the Anti-Defamation League, more than 800 journalists were subjected to anti-Semitic Twitter attacks during the election — just one part of a recent spread of anti-Jewish language, imagery and conspiracy theories aired both online and in public in the past year.
Despite Trump’s disavowal of his more blatantly white supremacist or anti-Semitic supporters, the ADL argues that there were several occasions on which Trump at least inadvertently fanned the flames of this growing anti-Jewish sentiment. Critics point to the incident in which he tweeted an altered image of his rival Hillary Clinton atop a pile of money with “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” written inside a Star of David. They also point to his accusation that Clinton was secretly plotting with bankers and other members of the “global elite” to rig the U.S. economy, echoing a classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews control the world’s banks.
However, just one month after a group of white nationalists celebrated Trump’s presidential win with Nazi salutes, the president-elect came in for criticism from some of his anti-Semitic supporters when he tweeted “Happy Hanukkah” on Christmas Eve.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 24, 2016
“Wtf I hate trump now,” tweeted one disappointed fan. “Did you move to Israel already? Or only forgot to wish Merry Christmas?” another retorted.
Others reacted much more viciously to Trump’s Hanukkah message, with several people tweeting in reply the claim that Jews promote “white genocide.”
“Do not assist them in wiping out our race,” read one appeal to the president-elect.
“You better be f***ing kidding me!” declared another, whose account has since been suspended. “I voted for you and you said you were a ‘good Christians’ [sic] and we don’t support satanic jews.”
Trump recently declared his presidential win a victory for beleaguered Christians tired of being forced to forgo wishing their neighbors and colleagues a “Merry Christmas” in favor of the more politically correct “Happy holidays.”
It is perhaps because of his public crusade against the “war on Christmas” that some supporters may have forgotten that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, converted to Orthodox Judaism before her wedding to Jared Kushner in 2009 and that their three children — Trump’s grandchildren — are Jewish. Kushner is one of Trump’s closest advisers.