Anti-Jewish Graffiti in Vestavia

Condemnations have been widespread for whoever painted an incorrectly-drawn swastika, along with obscenities and slurs outside the home of Richard and Kelly Kahn in Vestavia, a Birmingham suburb.

The graffiti was discovered on Dec. 14 and reported to police. An investigation is ongoing.

Vestavia Mayor Alberto Zaragoza said “Everyone needs to be able to live their lives and live their beliefs without harassment. We do not condone this at all in our community.”

It is believed that the graffiti was aimed at the Kahns’ daughter, Erin, a senior at Vestavia High School, who apparently has had to deal with religious harassment at the school, and earlier at Pizitz Middle School.

Charles Gardner, a member of the Father James Coyle Remembrance Committee at Birmingham’s Cathedral of St. Paul, said, “I hope that this is a stupid act by kids without the realization of the implications of pain and loss and history. I hope for their own sake they are caught and exposed to some spiritual and historical consequences of what they did.”

After winter break, Joyce Spielberger, director of community relations for the Birmingham Jewish Federation, will be joined by an Anti-Defamation League representative in meeting with the school’s principal. The Federation posted a photo of the swastika on its Facebook page and started a “Say No to Hate” campaign.

The issue is especially sensitive because of a historical notion about Vestavia. After World War II, when Jews and others started moving “over the mountain” to new suburbs, there was apparently an “understanding” that Jews moved to Mountain Brook and not to Vestavia. When that is mentioned, though, Herc Levine — who has been active in Vestavia’s civic life for decades — defends the community, saying he has never had any problems there. While there has never been a particularly large Jewish presence in Vestavia, it has been growing in recent years.