Call out hate: Travis County asking for community’s help after several antisemitic acts in Austin

Travis County
Congregation Beth Israel fire

The Austin Fire Department Tweeted this photo of a fire started outside a synagogue in Central Austin Sunday Night. (Austin Fire Department/Twitter)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The week after a series of antisemitic banners were seen hanging from an Austin overpass and a small fire was lit outside of a Central Austin synagogue, Travis County Commissioners approved a resolution denouncing antisemitism and hate speech.

In the resolution approved Tuesday, commissioners noted an increase in hate crimes nationwide against Jews and the anniversary of the terrorist attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were killed about three years ago.

Commissioners also talked about several antisemitic events that have happened recently in Central Texas.

“There were some instances of hate that happened in Austin over the past week or so, most recently an attack on a temple here in Austin,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said. Monday, community members and leaders, including Brown, showed up at that synagogue to show support.

“We’re going to stand up and say that we are unified in support of religious freedom, in support of our Jewish brothers and sisters here in Austin and Travis County and support of every faith, ethnicity, background diversity … that’s what Travis County and Austin are about,” Brown said.

The fire, which happened at the Congregation Beth Israel just north of 38th Street and east of MoPac, came just days after several antisemitic banners were seen hanging from an Austin overpass. The week before that, offensive and racist words and symbols were painted across several student parking spots at Anderson High School.

As a part of that resolution passed Tuesday, county commissioners are asking members of the community to speak out when they see or hear acts of hate.

Travis County and Austin have a collaborative Hate Crimes Task Force which includes the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, Constables’ Offices and others. That task force works to prevent and prosecute hate crimes.

“If we don’t speak out against it (hateful speech and antisemitism) then it makes it seem as if what is being done is normal, is custom and is accepted and we cannot accept many of the types of things that we have been seeing,” Commissioner Jeff Travillion, said.

The City of Austin has also called attention to the banners and taken a stance against hate speech over the past week. Mayor Steve Adler posted that it “has no place in our city” and has also asked people to report hate when they see it.

If you or someone you know has experienced a hate crime, you can find resources on the Hate Crimes Task Force’s website.

You can also report an antisemitic, bias or discriminatory incident on the Anti-Defamation League’s website.

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