Over 60 people gather to denounce anti-Semitic graffiti in South Lake Tahoe
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — “Not in our town” and “never again” were the phrases Rabbi Evon Yakar kept repeating Thursday afternoon during an impassioned speech before a large crowd that had gathered near the Trout Creek Bridge to denounce anti-Semitic graffiti.
The graffiti, discovered late last month underneath the bridge, reads “DON’T TRUST JEWS.” The creek’s waters had partially covered the word “JEWS” at the time of Thursday’s gathering. Officials are expected to remove it sometime next week, according to Yakar, of Temple Bat Yam and the North Tahoe Hebrew Congregation.
More than 60 people, including South Lake Tahoe Mayor Brooke Laine and El Dorado County District 5 supervisor Sue Novasel, came together to offer their support to those in the Jewish community. Representatives from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, city of South Lake Tahoe, area schools and other faith-based organizations also were on hand.
“From the moment I first put my own eyes on the ugliness under the bridge that says ‘don’t trust Jews’ I decided to say this is an opportunity to do this and stand here together,” Yakar said to the crowd. “We are the response. All of us standing here in this moment and all those who have reached out in solidarity. We are the response that says, ‘never again.’”
The phrase “never again” is commonly used as a promise and commitment to combat hatred and bigotry, specifically anti-Semitism, Yakar said. He said it often calls to mind the tragedies that were the result of the Holocaust and World War II.
“It brings to mind the commitment we make to ourselves and our community and world when all of us are able to stand together in this moment as witness to this expression of anti-Semitism and symbol of hate and bigotry,” he said. “We don’t want to be here. We shouldn’t be here in this moment. But, we are compelled to be here because we are saying together, ‘not in our town.’”
In between applause and led by former El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago, the crowd began to chant: Not in our town.
Santiago, who first heard about the graffiti while volunteering at Hope Lutheran Church of the Sierra, said she felt it was critical for community members to show up Thursday.
“I wanted to be here to show that the community that we have is incredible,” she told the Tribune. “We are better when we are together and do things together. That is where our strength comes from.”
Detective Ross Wolesworth told the Tribune that representation from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department signified a stand against “any type of hatred.”
“We don’t want it or anything that will affect this small town,” he said. “Our action today is a response to a big issue. It’s a great thing for us to be here for this town.”
Novasel, who before the event started had described her previously announced plans to start a commission on human rights, said the graffiti puts an exclamation point on the issue.
“Some of this is under the surface and some of this is coming to light,” she said. “It is a constant battle to make sure we have equality and that we have tolerance within our communities. It is really important that we do anything we can do as a community and a county to make sure we keep addressing issues as they come about.”
Yakar was visibly moved by the number of people that gathered Thursday evening. He said he was hoping at least 10 to 15 people showed up.
“When a community of our size does this on a days notice it’s motivating,” he said. “I am so heartened and inspired and motivated. I wish we weren’t doing it. But, we have turned this into an opportunity for us in the small little gem of the world to come up with some best practices.”
Angelique McNaughton is a freelance writer living in South Lake Tahoe. Find her online at AngeliqueMcnaughton.com.