Big turnout at temple after acts of anti-Semitism |

Big turnout at temple after acts of anti-Semitism

Jeff Munson
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Rabbi Jonathan Freirich, left, welcomes a crowd of nearly 150 to the Temple Bat Yam's Sanctification of the Synagogue on Saturday afternoon.

In the wake of anti-Semitic vandalism last week at a South Shore Jewish temple, spiritual leaders here announced the formation of the Interfaith Council which will deal in matters relating to all forms of faith relations in the Lake Tahoe region.

The announcement was made during a Hanukkah ceremony at Temple Bat Yam on Saturday, which was attended by nearly 150 people, including clergy leaders from around Lake Tahoe. The rededication ceremony is a Jewish tradition.

In response to the vandalism at the temple on Tuesday, the people of Lake Tahoe have come together in the right spirit, Temple Bat Yam Rabbi Jonathan Freirich said in announcing the formation of the council.

“What I think is really wonderful is the spirit of this community,” he said.

The vandalism, which included Nazi symbols and the words “die Jew” on the front door of the temple, was discovered Tuesday. Also found were Nazi symbols on highway signs throughout the South Shore.

The vandalism at the temple was the first time in the synagogue’s 22-year history that it had experienced anti-Semitic threats.

The South Lake Tahoe Police Department and the FBI are investigating the vandalism as a felony hate crime. There are no suspects, but police have said there are known paroled, racist prison-gang members who live in the area.

Joined by Denese Schellink, pastor of Unity at the Lake, and Chip Larson, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Tahoe City, the Interfaith Council will meet periodically to discuss issues of faith and support community functions to bring awareness to issues of discrimination, anti-Semitism and racial bigotry, including the Season for Peace and Nonviolence campaign that begins Jan. 30.

“I see this as an awesome opportunity to create an interfaith council,” Schellink told synagogue members. “There’s a prayer for the world in here today.”

Lake Tahoe’s Season for Peace and Nonviolence is, for the third year, being led by a diverse group of South Shore residents. As part of an international celebration of peace, the campaign was first held in 1997 and is observed worldwide Jan. 30 through April 4 to commemorate annually the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

The fact that so many South Lake Tahoe residents are enraged by what has happened shows that the community will not stand for bigotry, said Jerry Foster, a police chaplain and pastor of Calvary Chapel in South Lake Tahoe.

“We are taking a stand and sending a message that this will not be tolerated,” Foster said prior to the Hanukkah ceremony.

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