Antisemitic incidents continue locally post-Oct. 7
AntisemitismMore than 70 antisemitic attacks in Pittsburgh so far this year

Antisemitic incidents continue locally post-Oct. 7

“Do not look away. This is a threat to your Jewish neighbors.”

Defaced "We Stand With Israel" sign (Photo courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh)
Defaced "We Stand With Israel" sign (Photo courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh)

According to the Anti-Defamation League, in just the first three months after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel, 3,291 antisemitic incidents were reported in the United States. The number represents a 361% increase compared to the same period the previous year.

Pittsburgh wasn’t spared from the recent rash of hate. On Oct. 31, residents of Summerset at Frick Park awoke to antisemitic graffiti covering their sidewalks, bences and a gazebo.

Beginning shortly after the start of the war, rallies in Oakland sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace and other groups critical of Israel included the chanting of antisemitic and anti-Zionist slogans.

Toward the end of October, community members’ signs in support of Israel were vandalized with graffiti and a wall at Allderdice High School was defaced with anti-Israel language.

On the commemoration of Kristallnacht, a vandal attempted to smash the windows of a local Jewish-owned business, and when those attempts were unsuccessful, the perpetrator broke the windows of a company truck parked nearby.

Yeshiva students and members of the Lubavitch community have been a constant target of attacks since Israel entered Gaza to dismantle the terrorist group Hamas.

Other incidents, like the recent vote by the Allegheny County Council on a cease-fire resolution, have left many in the Jewish community feeling unsupported by some elected officials and anxious because of public comments containing antisemitic tropes and claims that Hamas’ brutal acts on Oct. 7 didn’t happen. (The resolution did not pass.)

In the most recent spate of antisemitic activity, several yard signs in Squirrel Hill reading “We Stand with Israel” were defaced with red handprints.

The symbol is similar to pins created by Artists4Ceasfire and worn at the Oscars by celebrities, including Billie Ellish and Mark Ruffalo.

In a press release, the group said, “The pin symbolizes collective support for an immediate and permanent cease-fire, the release of all the hostages and for the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.”

While the organization’s website claims the pin was designed out of an urgency to save lives, others have pointed to a more nefarious background for the symbol, going back to the second Intifada.

In 2000, two Israeli soldiers took a wrong turn on their way to an IDF base and were arrested at a Palestinian Authority roadblock. When word reached thousands nearby in Ramallah attending the funeral of a teenager who was killed in clashes the IDF, the mourners stormed the police station, overwhelming the police and beat the soldiers to death.

One of the bodies was dropped from a second-floor window where the mob outside the building continued to beat the corpse.

A photo was captured of one of the mob in a police station window, showing his blood-stained hands to the crowd.

Other theories have emerged explaining the symbol’s origin, including that of the Red Hand of Ulster, the sign of the Red Hand Commandos, a paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, according to the St. Louis Jewish Light.

Whatever its origins, the red hands on the vandalized signs are viewed by many as another salvo in an increasing antisemitic campaign meant to make members of the Jewish community feel unsafe.

One community member, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, said they first noticed the defaced sign in their yard while walking their children to the bus stop.

“It was pretty hard to miss,” they said.

The sign, they said, was in the family’s garden, which was closer to their home — not near a sidewalk or in the middle of their yard — indicating that the perpetrator trespassed on their property.

The vandalism, they said, was not an act of civil disobedience; rather, it was an illegal act.

“It’s a sign of the continued increase in the brazenness of antisemitic attacks,” the community member said.

Another community member, who also asked to remain anonymous, jumped into action when he learned of the vandalism.

He had stockpiled a collection of the “We Stand With Israel” signs because he expected this type of activity, he said. When he saw the vandalism online and received texts detailing what had happened, he drove around Squirrel Hill, replacing the defaced signs with new ones.

“I told everyone, ‘If you know someone this has happened to, please let me know, and I’ll come right out and replace the signs,’” he said. “It was my connections and word-of-mouth.”

Two local politicians condemned the vandalism on social media.

Pittsburgh Controller Rachael Heisler linked to a Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle post on X, formerly Twitter, writing: “Do not look away. This is a threat to your Jewish neighbors.”

Edgewood Borough Councilmember Bhavini Patel, who is facing Rep. Summer Lee in this month’s Democratic primary for Pennsylvania’s 12th District House, also reposted the Chronicle’s story about the vandalism, writing: “Jewish families here in Pittsburgh deserve to live safely — and express themselves without the threat of violence.”

There have been 73 antisemitic incidents reported locally in 2024, more than three times the number reported from January through March last year, according to Shawn Brokos, director of community security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

The defacement of the “We Stand With Israel” signs occurred over two days in Squirrel Hill, she said.

Pittsburgh continues to be at a heightened threat level, Brokos said. In addition to the vandalism and antisemitic verbal assaults, there has been an uptick in social media comments, including those accusing the Jewish community of genocide.

She urges everyone who has experienced any antisemitism to report the incidents at

“We want to collect as much information as possible and share it with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police,” Brokos said.

The Pittsburgh police, she said, are actively investigating the recent vandalism.

To aid in community security, the Federation has created a Virtual Watch Program that asks people to register if they have external home security cameras that can be used to voluntarily share information or footage.

The hope is that these types of programs can help quell the anxiety felt in the community.

“It’s the fear of the unknown, and it’s the fear of the vitriol and hatred we’re seeing directed at Jews,” Brokos said. “It’s very concerning, whether it’s real threats or perceived threats, it’s making the community feel very anxious. How we combat that is by standing together as a community and remaining resilient.” PJC

David Rullo can be reached at

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