A Silver Spring Conservative synagogue that was defaced by anti-Semitic slogans in November, 1982, filed a class action suit yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against eight men alleged to be responsible for the desecration.
The suit seeks $3,000 to cover the cost of removing the red anti-Semitic graffiti which was spray-painted on the outside walls of Shaare Tefila synagogue. It also seeks monetary damages for emotional distress and punitive damages. Marshall Levin, the congregation’s executive director, said any money awarded will be given to the Montgomery County Human Relations Commission.
The incident created widespread community reaction in Montgomery County, a suburb of Washington, after the congregation decided to leave the graffiti on the walls for a week. It included anti-Semitic slogans such as “death to the Jude”, “In–take a shower Jew” as well as swastikas, skulls and crossbones, a burning cross and a Nazi eagle.
Rep. Michael Barnes (D. Md.), in whose district the synagogue is located, said at a press conference yesterday: “This suit will educate the public that these acts involve more than just property damage; people and communities suffer. The lawsuit will send a clear message that attacks on religious groups and institutions will not be tolerated.”
LEGAL ACTION WILL SERVE AS A WARNING
Irvin Shappel, head of the Jewish Advocacy Center which is representing the congregation in the suit, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that the “historic” legal action will also serve as a warning that individuals who commit such acts and those who help them or encourage them, will be held legally responsible. It will also demonstrate to other victims of similar incidents that rather than ignore them, it is necessary to involve the community and the legal system, he said.
Shappel’s organization, which was founded to counterattack anti-Semitic incidents, last year filed a $6 million suit against three individuals in Kings Point, Long Island, New York who were “terrorizing” a Jewish family for three years.
Two of the eight defendants in the congregation’s suit, Michael Remmer and William Harris, were found guilty last year of destruction of property. Remmer received the maximum three-year sentence and Harris, who pleaded guilty and testified against Remmer, received a four-month sentence.
A third defendant, John Cobb, received a six-month prison sentence for painting a swastika on a car near the synagogue on the evening of the desecration.
Two others named in the suit, Joseph Hunt Jr., and Dominic Queen, were convicted of stealing a van from a hardware store on the same evening and were placed on probation. Charges against another defendant, Thomas Heine, were dropped for lack of evidence. No charges were brought against the last two men named in the congregation suit, William Hess and Raymond Jordan. But the civil suit alleges that they participated in the activity.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.