In response to the vandalism on Temple Jacob, community members from a variety of faiths and institutions met to further discuss ways to combat hate.

Photos courtesy of David Holden

When Temple Jacob in Hancock, Michigan was vandalized with swastikas and SS logos in September, the community rallied together to clean the graffiti.

Support continues to pour in for Temple Jacob. Just before Rosh Hashanah, President David Holden and the synagogue board initiated a community-focused response to share the positive outcomes that resulted from the Nazi graffiti.

Holden consulted with Pastor Bucky Beach of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and Debbie Massarano, Temple Jacob’s service leader for the High Holidays. Together, the group decided to host two events: a community discussion and a community wide Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday, Oct. 4.

The first community discussion was held Wednesday, Oct. 2 at Good Shepherd where roughly 25 members from different churches, Temple Jacob, Hancock City Council, plus several faculty members from Michigan Technological University and teachers from area schools were in attendance.

Participants discussed other ways that hate, intolerance and bigotry could show up in their community. They also formulated different strategies on how to address these broader issues.

The result of this community meeting was to continue to grow the visibility of Keweenaw Faiths United, an interfaith group started recently to provide support for inclusiveness and diversity.

“The discussion also focused on strategic thinking on who we should approach to have maximum impact — specific influential religious groups, our target groups for education and modeling,” Holden said. “We also focused on what sort of messaging is appropriate for the Keweenaw Faiths United that all can get behind.”

Temple Jacob continues to enhance security and has seen service attendance for the High Holidays nearly double, with many people making trips in from far outside the Houghton-Hancock area.

In response to heightened security, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit worked with Michigan Technological University’s Public Safety Department and the Hancock Police Department to assist Temple Jacob in finding a capable security detail for their congregants.

Since Temple Jacob is almost 100 miles away from a larger known city, private security firms don’t exist in the area. Holden appreciates the hard work that Gary Sikorski, Federation’s director of community-wide security and his team did to help congregants feel at ease during services.

“The vandalism has served only to pump more life into these groups of committed folks,” Holden said. “It has awakened some of us to the fact that these are daily problems that exist at many levels of our community — in ways that are invisible to lots of us — and needs to be addressed with the same firm resolution that this is not who we are as a community.”

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