SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Two synagogues in Sarasota were vandalized with messages of hate and antisemitism back in July. The vandal hit Temple Emanu-El and Temple Sinai a short time apart.
Sarasota County deputies have since made an arrest in the case.
“When we experienced vandalism of our sacred space in April and then again over the summer, it was really devastating,” said Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Elaine Glickman.
“It is just not what we know of Sarasota, it is not what we know of the Suncoast and yet, to see the words, to see the vandalism, to see the graffiti on a place that is so holy and a place that is dedicated to kindness and warmth and to love and to peace and to our religion which embodies all of those things was very hurtful.”
Members of Temple Emanu-El are now working on a new project aimed at spreading a positive message across the community.
Youth group advisor Savannah Samberg came up with the idea of “Temple Emanu-El Rocks.” The project involves painting rocks with messages of love, joy, peace, and kindness rather than spreading messages of hate.
“We wanted to find a way that we could make something positive, so we took this horrible act of ugly painting on the building of words and symbols of hate and decided to paint something beautiful and paint some thing hopeful and share positivity,” said Samberg.
“I love that it is going to be a positive spin on something that tried to get us down and I love that the community has come together in support of this project. It just shows that we are stronger than one person with hate.”
Rabbi Elaine Glickman tells 8 On Your Side she was pleased when Samberg came up with the idea.
“I think what Savannah has done is really special. It is taking a physical manifestation of the vandalism and turning it into something that is inspiring and beautiful. The idea of taking the stone, or taking words, and taking paint and using them to help and to heal and to inspire rather than to fear and to bring harm and to have the project centered around the High Holy Days, a time in the Jewish religion of renewal, it’s just absolutely perfect,” said Glickman.
Samberg says the project was inspired by kindness from the community during a difficult time for the congregation.
“The idea from this project came from all the support that the temple received from local businesses, organizations and even individuals that were affiliated with our temple in the community after the vandalism happened in July. People reached out and offered to repaint the building for us which was touching, so we wanted to create a way that we could make something beautiful together and paint something beautiful together and share it with the community,” said Samberg.
So far, around 400 rocks have been painted as part of the project. They’ll soon be spread across the Suncoast far and wide.
“We will be encouraging people to either keep the rock in their home, put it in their garden, maybe somewhere in their community, that way we are thinking if we spread it wide, they can continue to place it and the ripples of the kind acts will be seen all throughout Sarasota,” said Samberg.
The rocks will go out during Rosh Hashanah later this month. Samberg says other groups unaffiliated with the temple are already starting similar projects of their own.
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