While Pittsburgh worked to heal after a synagogue shooting that killed 11, a suburban township on the opposite end of Pennsylvania was reminded of the hate that spurred the violence.
A Jewish couple woke up Wednesday morning in Montgomery Township, Montgomery County, to find swastikas spray-painted onto the windows of their car, parked in the driveway of their townhouse, police said Friday. The symbols, in red paint, were part of a rash of vandalism in the Montgomery Glen development near North Wales.
Five incidents were reported by residents, mostly obscenities painted onto fences or the exteriors of homes. Only the one on the couple's vehicle had swastikas.
That was enough to lead Police Chief Scott Bendig to label the incident, at least preliminarily, a hate crime.
"We're investigating it as a hate crime, and that's what we'll move forward with," Bendig said. "And as things develop, if we find evidence to show that that's not the case, we can take steps to charge appropriately."
Bendig said it was unclear whether the couple were targeted. He pointed out that the vandalism came on the night before Halloween, characterized by pranks and property damage.
But he said he doesn't take the implications of the graffiti lightly, and is urging anyone who may have seen something to contact his department at 215-362-2301.
"Obviously, this is very disturbing," Bendig said. "We're taking it very seriously in light of what happened this past weekend."
The couple, reached through Liora Yallop, a family friend, did not respond to a request for comment. Yallop said the incident shouldn't be written off as "kids being kids."
"That doesn't make it OK," Yallop said. "If it was kids, we need to tamp this behavior down, so their future doesn't become more hateful. And if it was adults, they need to be held accountable for their actions."
Pennsylvania last year had 96 reported incidents of anti-Semitism, an increase of 43 percent from 2016, according to statistics from the Anti-Defamation League. Of that number, 51 were reports of vandalism.
Robin Burstein, senior associate regional director of the ADL's Philadelphia office, said anti-Semitic behavior after the Pittsburgh massacre underscores the importance of rooting out hateful speech and attitudes.
"When those go unchecked, when people don't hold each other accountable for their way of speaking and conducting themselves in society, it can lead to acts of bias," she said. "When that goes unchecked, it could lead to violence.
"And so, in situations like this, when someone might be tempted to say, 'Oh, it's not that bad,' we need to put it in check and hold each other accountable now, at that level, before it becomes worse."
Barbara Simmons, director of the Peace Center of Bucks County, agreed. Simmons spent Friday morning discussing the graffiti with rabbis and other community members. Its timing troubled her. Her organization had held a candlelight vigil and town hall meeting Oct. 25 at Carl Sandburg Middle School in Levittown, where anti-police and anti-Semitic graffiti were painted two weeks in a row.
"In my mind, when you've got this kind of anti-Semitism, it has to be addressed by the community and by community leaders," Simmons said. "The people who are the victims need to feel the community is rallying around them and supporting them."
Simmons said her organization is planning a similar event Sunday at Congregation Beth El, 375 Stony Hill Rd., Yardley, which she expects to draw around 200 people from across the region to discuss recent examples of hate speech.