Antisemitic graffiti found on sign outside Whitman

School administrators reported the incident to the police, who are now investigating the spray-painted vandalism and working to identify a suspect, according to a Montgomery County Police Department statement.

By Dani Klein

Antisemitic graffiti that contained the words “Jews Not Welcome” was found on the sign outside Whitman this morning, Principal Robert Dodd wrote in an letter to community members today.

School administrators reported the incident to the police, who are now investigating the spray-painted vandalism and working to identify a suspect, according to a statement from the Montgomery County Police Department.  

“This behavior is abhorrent, extremely hurtful and will not be tolerated at Walt Whitman High School,” Dodd wrote in the letter. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to foster an anti-biased school culture and eliminate hate in all its forms.”

The graffiti is the latest in a recent series of acts of antisemitic vandalism in Bethesda, and led to calls from lawmakers and community members to increase discourse on antisemitism. On Friday, a swastika was found on a bench at Montgomery Mall, and since June, similar antisemitic images have twice appeared on the Bethesda Trolley trail, on Tuckerman Lane and at Pyle Middle School.

In the statement this morning, Police Chief Marcus Jones wrote that detectives are working to obtain images of a possible suspect. Local law enforcement will also expand countywide police patrols to include community centers, schools and places of worship. 

The targeted vandalism occurred less than three days after administrators and Whitman Jewish Student Union (JSU) leaders held a schoolwide OneWhitman lesson on the topic of antisemitism. Seeing the graffiti at campus during the same week that students participated in the anti-bias program made the “awful” act event more heartbreaking, senior Carly Svec said.

“It’s crazy how stuff like this continues to happen after multiple incidents have been addressed,” Svec said. “It seems like nothing is changing.”

The recent OneWhitman lesson included materials that aimed to disprove antisemitic myths, unpack recent incidents and inform students about the dangers of stereotypes about the Jewish community. The lesson was a product of a collaboration between administrators and the Whitman Jewish Student Union, and included personal testimonies from JSU leaders.

However, junior Eleanor Aronin believes that the recent anti-bias lesson could have done more to educate the school community on the historical and modern basis for antisemitic stereotypes. While she was surprised by the graffiti, she wasn’t nearly as taken aback by the hateful act as she should have been, she said.

“There is more that the next OneWhitman needs to address, such as the deeper history of antisemitism, and on stereotypes,” Aronin said. “We can have adult conversations, and we need to have adult conversations.”

The Union intends to continue working with administrators to combat antisemitism, the JSU wrote in a statement to The Black & White.

“The Whitman Jewish Student Union is extremely disheartened by these events. This graffiti just shows that antisemitism is more prevalent than ever,” the statement read. “Antisemitism exists and is dangerous.”

For former MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr, a Whitman parent, the incident was “infuriating and upsetting.” While he believes that these acts will continue taking place, he said that Montgomery County leaders are aware that antisemitism requires a comprehensive response, he said.

“I think efforts like OneWhitman are the right thing to do,” Starr said in an interview. “None of that can prevent people from acting in really abhorrent ways — whether it’s anti-semitism or any other kind of hate — but efforts like OneWhitman are essential to expose people to really important issues.”

The antisemitic graffiti drew sharp criticism from elected officials across Maryland, including Governor Larry Hogan, Governor-elect Wes Moore,  Congressman Jamie Raskin and Senator Chris Van Hollen. The Montgomery County Council and MCPS Superintendent Monifa McKnight each issued statements condemning the vandalism this morning, expressing zero tolerance for hate or discrimination across the county. 

In a statement on social media, Councilmember Will Jawando wrote that community members shouldn’t tolerate this type of hatred.

“The defacing of one of our schools, which is a place of learning, striving, and appreciating differences, is truly vile and antithetical to the values of our community,” Jawando wrote. 

Moving forward, Starr believes that Whitman students should lead efforts to address acts of hate like the graffiti on the school’s sign, he said. 

“Students should continue to lead and voice their opinions, and be really clear with their teachers, parents and administrators that… [they] should be part of the conversation,’”  Starr said. “Students should advocate for as much of the student voice as possible in any solution.”


Additional reporting by Meredith Lee.


Opinion Editor Eliana Joftus is President of the Jewish Student Union.