Local Jewish community targeted with another round of antisemitism
HateAntisemitic incidents in Bloomfield, Oakland neighborhoods

Local Jewish community targeted with another round of antisemitism

"I think what we’re seeing at a micro-level in this city is, Israel is synonymous with Zionism, which is synonymous with Jew hatred."

Illustrated by her yard signs, Rebecca Wells should have been an unlikely subject of antisemitic hate. (Photo by David Rullo)
Illustrated by her yard signs, Rebecca Wells should have been an unlikely subject of antisemitic hate. (Photo by David Rullo)

Rebecca Wells was surprised when a couple passing her home took issue with a sign in her yard.

The black-and-white placard read “We Are All Losing” in English, Hebrew and Arabic and was printed by the group Standing Together, a self-identified “grassroots Jewish-Arab movement fighting for peace, equality and social justice in Israel-Palestine.”

Wells thought it was unusual to argue with that message, especially given the group that created the sign.

And yet, in the early evening of June 7, during Bloomfield’s First Friday event, which celebrates the neighborhood’s art scene, Wells heard through an open window someone say, “ ‘We’re all losing.’ What the f— does that mean?”

Surprisingly, it was a “We Are All Losing” sign in Rebecca Wells’ Bloomfield yard that was the impetus for antisemitic events. (Photo by David Rullo)

Wells tried to engage the people in conversation, but the passerby responded with what she called “typical ‘Israel’s committing genocide’ comments.”

“They said that I have blood on my hands and then they said to kill myself,” Wells said.

That, though, was only the first disturbing incident of the night.

Later that evening, Wells noticed that her Israel flag, as well as her “We Stand with Israel” and “Black Lives Matter” signs, were gone. She called her husband, who was out of town, told him what happened and said she was sure she’d find them someone’s trash.

Sure enough, a quick walk around the block confirmed her suspicion.

“They were placed right in a trash can. I said, ‘I don’t think so,’ grabbed them, took them back to my house and put them in the window.”

She called the police, who took a report and requested footage from the couple’s doorbell camera. The footage showed the criminals stealing the items, as well as spouting several profanity-laced comments while giving the house the middle finger.

This isn’t the first time that Wells and her husband have been targeted since Oct. 7.

Literature, flyers, notes and pictures of mangled bodies were placed on the couple’s car windshield twice before the most recent incident.

“It was obviously a neighbor,” Wells said,” because they know our car. They know we live in this house.”

And while another antisemitic attack on another member of the Jewish community might not be surprising, the targeting of Wells illustrates an expansion of the brazen assaults the Jewish community is being forced to endure.

Wells lives miles from the center of Jewish life in Squirrel Hill and nothing in her outward appearance points to her being Jewish. The 41-year-old tattooed Bloomfield resident’s house is bedecked in Halloween décor and, from a quick observation, she appears to simply be an alternative-leaning artist.

“I think what we’re seeing at a micro-level in this city is, Israel is synonymous with Zionism, which is synonymous with Jew hatred, and there is legitimately no conversation to be had, which is exactly where we don’t want to be,” she said.

That hatred has begun to affect Wells, who said she now double-checks the environment each time she walks into a bar or restaurant, paying attention to what people are wearing and saying.

“I don’t go out as much as I used to around here,” she said. “I can pass. If I walk around, you would not think a thing. I wear a tiny Magen David, but I know that I am unwelcome.”

Shawn Brokos, the director of community security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, called the incident “very concerning and indicative of a pattern of behavior. It’s becoming more challenging and making the community more anxious.”

Brokos said people must take a stand against this type of antisemitic behavior.

“There should never be a time when a homeowner has to endure — not just trespass, not just theft — but derogatory and threatening comments lodged at them just because they are Jewish or support Israel,” she said. “This really raises the bar in my opinion.”

Both Wells and Brokos voiced frustration that the young adults who committed the attack seem to be touting peace while breaking the law.

Brokos said that those committing these antisemitic attacks in an ever-widening geographic area are emboldened because of the recent encampments on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus and at Schenley Plaza.

Antisemitic agitators wrote in chalk of their lover for the terrorist organization Hamas on the corner of Bigelow and Fifth Avenues near the Cathedral of Learning. (Photo by Joshua Summers)

“There’s this notion that it’s OK to be overtly antisemitic because they’re standing up for Gaza or Palestinians,” she said. “The narrative has gone so far afield, and it’s really this younger generation that has no appreciation for the history of Israel, the history of Jews and the layout of the Middle East.”

Brokos noted that the Jewish community is losing ground because of the inaction of some public officials.

“We’ve seen a lack of leadership from community leaders who do not speak out against this type of behavior and that has emboldened certain individuals in our Pittsburgh community to do these horrific acts directed at the Jewish community,” Brokos said. “I really believe until someone stands up and says, ‘This is not OK. This is not how we treat fellow Pittsburgh citizens,’ that it is going to continue.

Bloomfield wasn’t the only neighborhood targeted by antisemitism last week.

As the Jewish community celebrated Shavuot, antisemites took to the corner of Bigelow Boulevard and Fifth Avenue in Oakland, near the site of last month’s encampment at the Cathedral of Learning. They chalked messages in support of the internationally recognized terrorist group Hamas.

The chalk messages thanked Hamas, which broke a cease-fire on Oct. 7 when 3,000 terrorists entered Israel from Gaza to murder Jewish men, women and children, commit rape and kidnap more than 240 people; more than 120 hostages remain missing.

“I love Hamas,” “Long live Intifada!,” “Hamas are freedom fighters,” “Don’t believe the white lies” and “Zionist lies only work if you have a severely low IQ,” were just some of the messages written on the sidewalk.

University of Pittsburgh student Joshua Summers passed the agitators at approximately 7:30 p.m. on June 11 on his way to the gym as they were writing their messages.

Joshua Summers views the recent chalk written messages in support of Hamas as implied support of the group’s terrorist attack in Israel on Oct. 7 which broke a cease fire agreement that had been in place. (Photo by Joshua Summers)

“I said, ‘I know people that died, this isn’t helping anything’, and they started yelling,” Summers said.

He said the group was small — about five people — and left by 9:30 p.m.

Summers was taken aback by the messages thanking Hamas.

“Even if you’re a Palestinian in Gaza, they’re an authoritarian, theocratic regime and are responsible for this war,” he said. “I feel like saying ‘thank you’ is implying thank you for Oct. 7. They’re saying thanks for that. They’re thanking them for the violence.”

And while the messages were disturbing, Summers said the university handled the situation correctly; by the next day, the messages had been removed.

Jared Stonesifer, the university’s senior director of external communications, said the writing was done by a group not connected to the university.

“The chalk was removed in accordance with the university’s grounds cleaning schedules and protocols,” he said.

Anyone witnessing antisemitic activity should contact police and report it to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Requests to interview Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey were not returned by his communications director, Maria Montaño, before publication. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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