Jewish community, allies concerned after couple wearing Nazi clothes stand on Holocaust Memorial

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — The Jewish community is growing concerned after an uptick of anti-Semitic actions in the area. Last week, a couple wearing swastika armbands stood on the Holocaust Memorial in Providence doing the Nazi salute.

The people who saw it happen say shocking is an understatement. Unfortunately, the Jewish community is feeling the impact of these displays of hatred. Synagogues around the country and Temple Beth-El in Providence now have security during services and Sunday school, all as they feel a surge in anti-Semitism.

A message of hate on display in broad daylight in the center of Providence. A couple wearing swastikas stood on the Holocaust Memorial doing the Nazi salute, laughing and taking pictures.

“I was horrified. I said out loud can you believe this, look at this,” says Sondra Pierson.

She confronted the couple.

“I said basically what the heck are you doing, how dare you do this and they just kind of laughed and were like, oh thank you for your input on this that’s so sweet of you,” says Pierson.

She’s not Jewish but is enraged people feel emboldened enough to display these beliefs.

“I think at this time, where we are in this country, it’s just really important for us to stand up for decency, just be a nice person,” she says.

The Rabbi at Temple Beth–El feels the same. He says nationwide there’s been a huge increase in anti–Semitic acts since 2016.

“For many decades anti–Semitism was on the decline, people felt very secure to be themselves, to be publicly Jewish without fear or concern. Today, we now have a police presence at every service,” says Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman.

And paired with the recent vandalism at the Hebrew Cemetery in Fall River, the need for concern is clear. But the Jewish community will not let hate win.

“We won’t give in to such prejudice and discrimination, that’s not who we are as a people. We’re going to stand proudly and be who we are,” says Rabbi Voss-Altman.

Mitzi Berkelhammer, the Chair of the Board for the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island sent the following statement:

“The Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island is deeply concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism and we strongly condemn this expression of hate.

While as Americans we honor the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, as Jews and citizens of the world, we must stand against any group whose core principles are grounded in hate.”

© WLNE/ABC 6 2019