Support pours into Hebrew Union College after swastika graffiti

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USA Today Network Cameron Knight, The Cincinnati Enquirer 12:09 a.m. ET Jan. 5, 2017

A sign at Hebrew Union College was vandalized Monday.(Photo: Provided)

CINCINNATI — Following statements of support from Cincinnati’s mayor and a U.S. senator, a group gathered on the campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Wednesday in front of a sign that was painted with a large white swastika earlier this week.

In freezing temperatures, about 25 people held signs and cheered honking drivers on Clifton Avenue. The group was largely made up of people associated with Call to Action, a progressive Catholic organization.

Faith Kemper of Fort Wright, who organized the event, said she was sick to her stomach when she learned what had happened.

Faculty arrived on campus on Tuesday to find the Nazi symbol painted on a school sign.

College officials said a police report was filed. By noon, the symbol had been removed from the sign. The Enquirer has requested the police report from the Cincinnati Police Department.

“It’s become detached,” Kemper said of the swastika. “To those who have relatives who fought for this country’s freedom, we know that it’s a symbol of evil.”

Kemper said her father fought in World War II and said to her the swastika is symbol of the power hungry and hateful. She was joined by several members of her St. Monica-St. George Parish, whose church is on nearby McMillan Avenue. One carried a sign that said, “We support our Jewish neighbors.”

A group gathered to support Hebrew Union College after

A group gathered to support Hebrew Union College after a swastika was painted on a sign at the school this week.(Photo: The Enquirer/Cameron Knight)

Margaret Quinn of Hyde Park held a sign that read, “Love Always Wins.” She said she thinks public racism is becoming more common.

“They feel emboldened,” Quinn said. “I think the [presidential] campaign gave people the idea that it’s alright to discriminate.”

The incident at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion comes on the heels of similar incidents throughout the country following November’s election, and the alleged vandalism of an interracial couple’s home in East Price Hill on Thanksgiving weekend.

The dean of the school, Rabbi Jonathan Cohen, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“A minor anti-Semitic action occurred on the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College this morning when a swastika was spray-painted on the HUC sign at the entrance to the Clifton Avenue campus,” Cohen said. “While only a minor act of vandalism, we are grateful for the immediate support of the Cincinnati police and many friends and neighbors in the Jewish and general communities. For more than 140 years, HUC-JIR has been committed to being the liberal, open and welcoming center of Jewish life and education. We call on supporters and neighbors to increase their commitment to tolerance and respect among members of all faiths.”

Rabbi Kenneth Kanter, associate dean at the college, greeted the group and thanked them for their support. He was joined by Gary Zola, a college professor and director of the American-Jewish Archive. Zola handed out cookies and offered supporters coffee and hot chocolate.

Kanter said he’s not surprised by the support the school has received because Cincinnati has supported the school since its creation more than 140 years ago, but he said he was grateful for all of the calls, letters and kind words that have poured in.

The swastika that was found painted on a Hebrew Union

The swastika that was found painted on a Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion was removed by noon on Tuesday.(Photo: The Enquirer/Cameron Knight)

The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion was founded in Cincinnati in 1875 as the first permanent Jewish institution of higher learning in North America. The college has locations in New York, Los Angeles and Jerusalem in addition to the University Heights location.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said he was disturbed by the “act of hate.”

“I am deeply offended and disturbed by these actions,” Cranley said. “The City is committed to using all of our resources to bring these criminals to justice. As we work to build a more welcoming and inclusive City, we will not stand for this intimidation.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who rescinded his endorsement of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump a month before the election, also spoke out against the vandalism.

“We must stand in solidarity with our friends at HUC-JIR and make clear there is no place for this in our society,” Portman said in a statement Wednesday.

Whether acts of public racism are becoming more common or if those acts are just getting more attention due to the political climate, Kemper said it’s unacceptable.

“It’s not going to happen on my watch,” she said.

Follow Cameron Knight on Twitter: @ckpj99

Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/2j6zx1B

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