Miami-Dade County

Miami Beach synagogue vandalized with grafitti in string of attacks

Vandals spewed hatred toward members of Miami Beach’s oldest conservative Jewish congregation Tuesday morning, scrawling a swastika and the letters “KKK” on a temporary sign next to the synagogue’s entrance.

It’s at least the fifth time anti-Semetic hatred has smeared a Jewish neighborhood or place of worship in Miami-Dade this summer, and it came with promised vigilance from police and outrage from those who combat intolerance.

“The message is clear. It’s a message of hate and intolerance,” said Temple Emanu-el Rabbi Marc Philippe. “And whenever you have intolerance, you have problems.”

The vandalism prompted a visit from Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates, who attended a Jewish Federation conference on security Tuesday in downtown Miami. Detective Vivian Thayer said with the continuing problems in the Middle East and with the Jewish high holidays approaching, patrols would increase near Miami Beach synagogues.

Police released a surveillance tape supplied by the synagogue, 1701 Washington Ave., that shows two men around walking around the temple at 3 a.m. Tuesday, about the time an anonymous call came in to police that it was being vandalized. In one scene, a man with a flashlight appears to be talking with a man carrying a backpack, who then walks away.

Miami Beach police arrested 43-year old Maximo De La Cruz-De Jesus and charged him with criminal mischeif, according to Miami Herald news partner CBS4.

On Saturday, someone spray-painted a similar swasitka and the letters “KKK” on the back wall of a Publix Super Market in Surfside. Early Monday morning, a West Miami synagogue was desecrated with the words “Iraq,” and “Hamas.”

In July, someone sprayed red paint on columns outside a North Miami Beach synagogue along with swastikas and the word “Hamas.” A week earlier someone poured cream cheese on a car in Miami Beach and used it to spell the words “Jew” and “Hamas.”

The incidents came as tensions between Israel and Hamas peaked this summer.

Miami Beach Mayor Philp Levine, who also met with the Jewish Federation on Tuesday, said steps will be taken to find the perpetrators and prosecute them.

“There is no place in our community or in our city for hate crimes or racism," Levine said.

The regional director of Florida’s Anti-Defamation League said the spate of graffiti comes at a time when anti-Semitism is surging worldwide.

Hava Holzhauer said “words matter,” and that Tuesday’s vandalism at Temple Emau-el “is unacceptable and needs to stop."

Rabbi Philippe said a letter more political in tone was left on top of a urinal in the men’s room of the temple two weeks ago. It denounced Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.

“It is a tough time right now,” Philippe said. “We need to be more vigilant than ever.”