View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Saturday, March 06, 2004

Synagogue Vandalized 

It turns out that Friday night, one or several of Denver's less-intelligent residents got the bright idea of painting swastikas on the large synagogue across the street from where I live. No pix, since reader Julia White alerted me to this after Shabbat, of course, when it was already dark.

This is a completely different issue from the church sign. There are no theological implications here for Christianity, nothing to be (mis)interpreted, and nothing for the Christian community as a whole to defend itself against. Even if only Jews show up to the 10:00 cleaning & show of solidatiry, nobody is going to think this reflects on anyone other than the morons with access to spray paint. The initial e-mailing came from a Middle-East study center at DU, so it'll be interesting to see how many Muslims don't show up.

I'm sure the gorillas didn't know this, but this is a particuarly appropriate week for something like this to happen. This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Zachor, or Shabbat of Remembrance. It coincides annually with Purim, the holiday celebrating the failure of a plot during the Persian exile to exterminate the Jews of that polity. You've heard the phrase, "Hang him high as Haman". Haman's the bad guy here, the Prime Minister to whom Mordecai won't bow down, so he takes it out on the whole Jewish population. It's not quite William Tell, although the Austrians would later reprise the role of Gessler/Haman. The Megillah, the Book of Esther, written about 2500 years ago, actually has Haman as a fairly convincing proto-anti-Semite. In any case, the plot fails, Haman and his sons end up of the wrong end of the gallows, and we get to celebrate.

During the Shabbat service each year, a section of the story of Amalek is read. Amalek was the nation who attacked the Jews on the way out of Egypt, attacking in the rear so as to target women, children, the old, the sick. God helps the Israelites defeat him in battle, and we are commanded to "never forget what he did, and to blot out his memory." In popular and Rabbinic memory, Amalek has become the symbolic representative of everyone who every plotted to destroy us, and Haman is reputed to be one of his descendents.

How appropriate, then, that we should be devoting tomorrow morning to literally blotting out swastikas, while remembering what happened when we didn't.

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