Vandal spray paints Temple Israel during Passover - KMSP-TV

Vandal spray paints Temple Israel during Passover

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Minneapolis police are looking for a vandal who was caught on camera spray-painting purple letters on Temple Israel overnight, and though they're not sure what it means, they say it could be a hate crime.

Police are not releasing the video, describing it as evidence -- but Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman told FOX 9 News that the man seen on video footage acted alone in spraying graffiti on the exterior of Minnesota's largest synagogue, where Judaism is practiced, studied and where the public is invited for community events.

Given that it is Passover, some members of the Jewish community are wondering if this wasn't just an act of vandalism, but also an act of hate. Police say they're investigating that, too.

"It's still upsetting and insulting," Zimmerman said as she showed the damage on the pillars and walls of Temple Israel. "It's unclear what it all means."

The purple graffiti is unintelligible, which -- on the surface -- suggests that the vandals purpose was that of a simple scoundrel, but the timing of the act may speak volumes.

"We saw that it was a single person sometime before midnight Tuesday," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman explained that 200 worshippers had just left after the second night and the second seder, and the holiday made the vandalism tighter to take.

"I thought of the collective experience of Jews throughout time and throughout the word where we have been the target of vandalism and persecution," Zimmerman told FOX 9 News.

Those who study at the temple were also taken aback and disgusted.

"It's such a sign of disrespect," said Allison Rebin.

Receiving community support from the Islamic Center of Minnesota provides Zimmerman comfort, and police have assigned extra patrols to make sure it doesn't happen again, but the injury remains.

"It hurt my soul," said Ruth Lordan.

Although police say it is likely the vandal was unaware of the holiday when he committed the act, Lordan believes the opposite is true.

"It's all over the Internet. People know what this was, that this was significant," Lordan said. "If you want to believe this was a random coincidence, then I have a bridge to sell you."

The act of disrespect resonates deeply.

"Anything like this triggers the whole rash of, 'Here it comes again,'" said Lordan. "You look at history and about every 200 years, they go after the Jews. Is this happening again?"

Yet, as the pillars remain intact, so too will the strength of the community that worships at the synagogue.

"That's exactly what the Passover story is here to teach us, that even in confrontation and reality of feeling vulnerable, that we still strengthen ourselves and our identity," Zimmerman said.

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