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Supreme Court Asked to Decide if a Synagogue That Was Desecrated Can Be Protected Under Civil Rights

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The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether a Silver Spring, Md. synagogue that was desecrated can be protected under the civil rights law.

Shaare Tefila, a Conservative congregation in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, has asked the high court to overrule the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., last spring that Jews cannot seek this protection because they are not members of a distinct “non-white race.”

An amicus curiae brief (friend of the court) was filed in support of the synagogue last week by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and the American Gathering and Federation of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.

“Although the League rejects the notion that Jews should be classified as a race, the civil rights statute must be construed to cover acts of racism against Jews,” Michael Schultz, chairman of ADL’s national civil rights committee explained. “The statute was meant to protect against all racially-motivated violations of civil rights.”

The case arises out of an incident during the night of November 1, 1981 when the synagogue walls were spray-painted in blood red with swastikas, a skull and cross bones, a burning cross, a Nazi eagle and slogans such as “Death to the Jude.” The congregation decided to leave the anti-Semitic graffiti on for a week as a display for the community. Subsequently eight men were arrested. Two received prison sentences, three were convicted of related offenses and the others were not prosecuted.

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