Two Montgomery County high school students have been charged with hate crimes for allegedly painting anti-Semitic graffiti in the Potomac-Rockville area, authorities said Friday.
The suspects, ages 16 and 17, were charged as juveniles and released to the custody of their parents. They also face vandalism charges.
The incidents occurred over three days in April, Montgomery police said. A swastika was drawn on the main sign at Young Israel of Potomac, a synagogue on Seven Locks Road between Montrose Road and Tuckerman Lane. In the immediate area, an anti-Jewish slur and a swastika were scrawled on two buses at the Montgomery Child Care Association, police said.
At a nearby residence, along Old Coach Road, a swastika and an “SS” Nazi symbol were drawn on the windshield of a car.
During the investigation, police said, detectives obtained surveillance video depicting the two suspects.
Police declined to discuss what might have caused the teenagers to allegedly commit such acts.
“It doesn’t matter to us what their motives were,” Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said Friday. “What they did was a hate crime of the most hurtful and offensive nature.”
Manger said he had earlier discussed the case with members of the Jewish community at Young Israel. Among the people he met was a Holocaust survivor. “It’s a big deal because of what it does to the community,” Manger said.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said that although the county has made big racial strides in recent decades, it is important for police to jump on this case. “It does not take a great deal for us to fall back into the many challenges we’ve had in the past,” he said. “And unless we’re vigilant about it, and we speak out about it, and we let the public know that this is not something that we will tolerate, then we could slip back.”
At Young Israel, Rabbi Yosef Singer said he grew up amid anti-Semitism in Boston and Chicago. The graffiti angered him. “It was a sober reminder that that sort of hatred still exists,” he said Friday.