After swastika sticker incident, Anchorage rabbi calls for acts of kindness

Museum Director Rabbi Yosef Greenberg and Curator Leslie Fried stand in front of the Alaska Jewish Museum. (Matt Fabion/ Alaska Public Media)

The director and curator of the Alaska Jewish Museum were shocked when they found several stickers showing a swastika on the windows of their museum, but say they won’t be intimidated by harassment. 

“This was one individual,” said Rabbi Yosef Greenberg, museum director. “This is not what Anchorage is all about.”

Listen to this story:

Police and the FBI are investigating the stickers, which have a black swastika and the words, “We are everywhere.” The stickers were reported by the Jewish Museum and Mad Myrna’s, a gay bar in downtown Anchorage, on Tuesday. Police released an alert about the vandalism Wednesday evening, along with a request for public help to identify a suspect. 

On Tuesday afternoon, museum curator Leslie Fried was tending to a flower bed in front of the museum in Midtown Anchorage when she spotted a sticker on the window. 

A swastika sticker in the top corner of a pink door
Nazi-themed stickers. ( Anchorage Police Department)

“I just looked up like this and I went ‘Oh my God,’” she said.  

Fried said she stood there, stunned, for several seconds before peeling off the sticker to show her boss, Rabbi Greenberg, who works in an office across the street. Walking around the building, they found several more stickers. The residue was still visible on the windows Thursday afternoon. 

“When I saw Leslie was a little bit shaken up, I felt that I needed to be the one to be calm,” said Greenberg, “And I said, ‘Let’s not worry about it. Just put it back on there. And we’ll call the FBI, we’ll call the police.’”

They reviewed security footage from the museum and found video of a man in a dark hoodie riding in on an electric skateboard around 2 a.m. the morning before. He appeared to paste stickers on the windows, but had his face covered. 

It’s not the first time Greenberg has had to call authorities about an incident like this. There have been other vandals, and a bomb threat. Greenberg said he also called the Department of Homeland Security, since the museum had previously received a DHS grant for security. 

“In the next few weeks, with both of the buildings open, we will have security guards here with everything,” he said. “The security people need to secure this place. So, we are taking this very seriously.”

The incident comes at a difficult time for the Jewish community. Nationwide, synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses have faced a wave of vandalism after recent violence between Israel and Palestine, according to The New York Times. But Greenberg said he’s not living in fear. 

“For someone coming in the middle of the night, it’s being a coward — coming in middle of the night and hiding and putting a sticker. That’s the only purpose of this — to get publicity, to put fear,” he said. 

Greenberg and Fried said they’ve received dozens of messages of support after the incidents were publicized, including from an executive at Alaska Airlines and from Julie Sullivan, wife of U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan.

The community support shows there’s much more tolerance than hate in Anchorage, they said. They’re confident the police will catch the culprit. And in the meantime, Greenberg asked a favor of community members who want to show support:

“The best way to support the Jewish community is by doing an act of goodness and kindness, being kind to your neighbor, being kind to your friend, being kind to family,” he said.

Previous articleAlaska News Nightly: Thursday, May 27, 2021
Next articleCorps: Appeal review for Pebble mine could take over a year
Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.