Vandals deface Fairfax church, Jewish center amid Holy Week, Passover

Vandals spray-painted swastikas, anti-Semitic messages and marred signs urging empathy for Muslims at a Jewish community center and a nearby church in Fairfax County. Police are investigating the extensive damage as a hate crime and believe the two incidents are related.

FAIRFAX, Va. — The director of a Jewish community center in Fairfax County said he was “nauseous” as he drove up to the facility Tuesday morning to discover Nazi imagery and swastikas plastered along the brick building.

“We hear about these kind of acts, we see them in the news. But when you drive up to a place you visit every single day and you see this on your building, it’s devastating. It’s absolutely devastating,” said Jeff Dannick, who runs the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia.

Police are investigating the vandalism at the community center as a hate crime and believe the damage is related to similar graffiti discovered at the Little River United Church of Christ just a few blocks away on Little River Turnpike in Fairfax, said Officer Tawny Wright, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Police Department.

The hateful messages were tailored toward each faith, which both are celebrating religious holidays this week.

At the church, vandals spray-painted signs advertising services for Holy Week — Christians will observe Easter on Sunday — and also damaged a sign that urged empathy, not bigotry toward Muslims, in addition to damaging the walls of the church itself.

For the church’s Jewish neighbors, Passover began on Monday and continues until sundown next Tuesday.

“As painful as this is, it’s even more painful for it to happen on Passover, a holiday when we celebrate the exodus from Egypt and overcoming slavery. We are reminded that we need to be concerned about people all over the world and what they may be facing,” Dannick said.

Crews with power washers arrived during the afternoon to blast away the markings from the recreation and cultural center that serves as many as 10,000 people a year. Dannick hoped to have the graffiti removed by the time center reopens on Thursday.

“We have covered up the graffiti in an effort to try and curtail the sharing of these awful symbols and this awful hate speech,” Dannick said.

Wright said investigators believe both incidents happened sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning. They also have surveillance video of the vandalism at the community center and hope it will help identify a suspect.

She said because of the extent and cost of the property damage, the culprit could face a felony charge. The hateful nature of the graffiti would also make the vandal eligible for an enhanced sentence.

Police are asking anyone with information about the vandalism to contact them at 703-691-2131.

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