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Police looking for person of interest in SLC Chabad hate crime

Chabad Swastika Suspect.jpg
Posted at 11:53 AM, Jun 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 22:19:29-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Police are looking for help in identifying a person of interest in a hate crime at the Chabad Community Center.

A member of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah found a swastika carved into the front door of the synagogue on May 16. The vandalism was found on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

"She called us right away," said Rabbi Benny Zippel. "She was freaked out."

The hate crime was done early on a Sunday morning. The swastika, already sensitive for those in the Jewish community, hit extra close to home for Zippel.

The Rabbi's mother lived in a concentration camp in Holland for two years with her parents.

"She is the only family member who survived the Holocaust," Zippel said.

For some, it is just a time in history, but Zippel grew up with the aftermath of the Holocaust.

"This incident is another sensitive reminder of the hateful society that we live in," he said.

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Antisemitism is racism, said Asaf Romirowsky, an executive director for an academic organization dedicated to improving learning and teaching about the Middle East.

"We're seeing a normalization of antisemitism," he said.

Even though antisemitism is racism, Romirowsky said people don't react to it the same way he believes people should react when they see a racist crime.

In the Northeast United States, Romirowsky said they have seen a 55 to 60 percent increase of antisemitic activity in the last 18 or so months.

Romirowsky said the political toxicity ever-present in society has spurred the increase in antisemitic rhetoric online and hate crimes.

"Since the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, you also saw the rise in attacking Jews," he said. "Wherever you saw those riots taking place, Jewish institutions and Jewish individuals were also attacked."

Yet, Romirowsky said antisemitism isn't a partisan issue, but rather a global problem — one that is felt even in Utah.