Washington States only Jewish High School defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti, swastikas and references to gas chambers.

Hebrew high school on Mercer Island defaced with anti-semitic graffiti

By Sandi Doughton

Seattle Times staff reporter

Kevin Franke, who lives in the neighborhood, helps clean up after vandals hit Northwest Yeshiva High School on Mercer Island early Friday morning.

KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Kevin Franke, who lives in the neighborhood, helps clean up after vandals hit Northwest Yeshiva High School on Mercer Island early Friday morning.

Washington’s only Jewish high school was defaced Thursday night by anti-semitic graffiti, including swastikas and references to gas chambers.

Members of a congregation that meets at Northwest Yeshiva High School on Mercer Island discovered the vandalism Friday morning, said Rabbi Bernie Fox, head of the school.

“It is quite substantial,” he said.

Orange, blue and gray paint scrawled across much of the building’s external wall and extended to the upper floor.

Fox suspects the vandals were aware that this evening marks the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement when Jews pray and seek forgiveness for wrongdoings.

“Yom Kippur is pretty regularly, in the Seattle community, a time when synagogues get tagged,” Fox said. But he wonders whether the vandals truly understand what they’re suggesting, with their spray painted arrows labeled “this way to the gas chambers.”

“Has civility and society degenerated to the extent that we actually contemplate wiping out cross-sections of our fellow citizens because they don’t share our religious beliefs?” asked Fox, whose father was a Holocaust survivor.

School officials are reviewing security tapes with police, and hope to clear the paint from the sanctuary windows before this evening’s service, Fox added.

The school, which includes grades 9-12, was not in session Thursday. Enrollment ranges between 80 and 120 students.

Neighbors said they were shocked by the vandalism.

“It’s not something we want happening in our neighborhood,” said Kevin Pettigrew.

Rabbi Yechezkel Kornfeld, who leads the congregation that discovered the graffiti, said he’s never experienced such overt anti-semitism in Seattle.

“It’s a kick in the gut,” he said. “I’ve been here for 35 years and… we’ve never had an incident like this,” he said.

“Whoever it is, I hope they eventually realize what they did and change their ways.”

After cleaning up the mess, the congregation will focus on Yom Kippur, with its prayers and 25-hour fast.

“We can’t allow this to stop us from standing before God on this holiest day of the year,” Kornfeld said.

Seattle Times staff reporter Nicole Tsong contributed to this report.

Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or

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