Austin Community Leaders Respond to Antisemitic Incidents Around The City
By Elexa Sherry
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — The past few weeks brought a wave of shock and sadness to the Jewish community in response to a series of antisemitic incidents.
The first incident occurred at Anderson High School, where someone vandalized the senior parking lot with antisemitic symbols and racial and homophobic slurs.
Junior Ellie Weisblatt said it was unsettling for her and other Jewish students at the school.
“It was kind of unsettling because it was so close to me. At the same time I wasn’t really surprised about another antisemitic attack [because] I hear about them every day because there’s so many of them,” Wiesblatt said.
Over 100 volunteers gathered at Anderson High School Nov. 6 to paint messages of positivity, unity and solidarity. Students and parents painted on picnic tables and buildings in response to the vandalism.
Shortly after the high school was vandalized, someone hung antisemitic signs over a Mopac overpass and in the Far West neighborhood which has a large Jewish community. There was a fire on Halloween night at Congregation Beth Israel. Austin police are investigating it as potential arson. On Nov.10, police arrested 18-year-old Franklin Barrett Sechriest with charges of arson.
The Anti-Defamation League identified the Goyim Defense League as responsible for the incidents at the high school and Mopac. ADL said this group of individuals are said to be connected due to “virulent antisemitism” by hanging offensive banners and posting hateful content on social media.
Rabbi Daniel Septimus, CEO of Shalom Austin, said the Goyim Defense League is seeking attention from the media.
“The less attention we give these folks, the less they’re going to feel like they have a platform that they believe will get attention,” Septimus said.
On Nov. 4, The Austin City Council approved Item 64, a resolution condemning antisemitism, racism and hate in the city. It calls on the city manager to work to improve the city’s response to acts of hate.
Maiya Edelson, executive director of Texas Hillel, works with Jewish students at The University of Texas. She said Hillel plans to continue supporting its students and members through this tough time.
“We’re working with students to identify what the needs are. In the next couple of weeks, we are putting opportunities out for students to come together, learn, and process,” Edelson said.