BEXLEY, Ohio (WCMH) — Members of the Jewish community here in Columbus said they will not be intimidated or silenced despite acts of antisemitism.
Since the Israel-Hamas war started, there have been at least three reports of antisemitism in Bexley and its surrounding areas. Police have since arrested and charged a man they believe is responsible for two of the threats, but the community remains on high alert.
Two of the hate crimes happened at homes flying an Israeli flag. The third was at a Columbus synagogue.
Nancy Gurwin, the executive director of Congregation Tifereth Israel on Broad Street, said that on Oct. 7, just hours after finding out about the attack in Israel, the weight of the war set in.
“A congregant was leaving to go home a little bit before noon and he was walking to his car and a gentleman had pulled into a parking lot, parked his car, was walking what seemed to be walking into the synagogue and confronted the congregant and said some really nasty things,” Gurwin said.
This was just after Shabbat services. Gurwin said that person went right back inside to alert the congregation’s security officer. She said the officer was able to get the man’s license plate and they filed a police report.
“The whole morning was scary because all of a sudden Israel was at war and there was nothing that any of us from here could really do except for pray very, very hard,” Gurwin said.
A few miles away in Bexley, Debbie Meyer said she hung up an Israeli flag to show solidarity. She said that hate came knocking at her door the next day.
“It was someone I didn’t recognize. So I went on my Ring,” Meyer said.
Meyer has a video of the interaction. When she answered the door, the man said an anti-Semitic slur into the camera.
“I was in shock,” she said. “I did not expect that at all and I hung up right away. He probably was here for another maybe 15, 30 seconds, but he walked slowly down the driveway.”
Bexley Police have identified the man as 39-year-old Jacob Reidy.
Police said he did the same thing to another house with an Israeli flag not too far from Meyer’s. Reidy is now in custody.
“Jewish people are very proud and Jewish people are very strong and when we wave that flag, we’re proud to wave that flag and we’re not going to be intimidated,” said Avi Goldstein, rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation and Meyer’s family Rabbi.
Both synagogue leaders said they have heightened security recently but are most importantly looking out for each other.
“We all work together, and in the end, we’re all one people,” Gurwin said.
Meyer said her flag is not going anywhere.
“I’ll keep it up as long as Israel is safe and this war ends, probably longer,” Meyer said. “Am Yisrael chai.”
That translates to “the people of Israel live.”
The rabbi said Meyer has inspired others to put up an Israeli flag in front of their home to show support during this dark time.
Bexley police said they are working closely with the FBI in this investigation.