Antisemitic graffiti found at local high school sparks fear in students


Montgomery County Public Schools

As antisemitism continues to be on the rise, Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda is the latest place to be vandalized.

Stella Muzin, Incoming A&E Editor

Antisemitic graffiti was found at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda on Saturday, Dec. 17. The graffiti was spray painted onto the front sign of the school and said, “Jews Not Welcome.” This is the fourth reported antisemitic incident in Montgomery County since August. 

Whitman Principal Robert Dodd and the Montgomery County Police are actively searching for the vandal while taking into consideration the recent rise in antisemitism in the Montgomery County area. 

“This behavior is abhorrent, extremely hurtful and will not be tolerated at Walt Whitman High School,” Dodd said in an email to Whitman parents on Saturday. 

Dodd says that when found, the vandal will face both criminal consequences, and consequences in accordance with the school district’s code of conduct. The Montgomery County police department has been coordinating with the Anti-Defamation League and is increasing security near the county’s community centers, schools and places of worship according to WTOP News. 

For many CESJDS students, this situation is particularly scary as many live near the school and have friends or siblings that attend.

“The first thing I thought when I saw that was ‘I have a mezuzah on my door’ and I live down the street from [Whitman] where people were acting against Jews and saying antisemitic things,” junior Abby Greenberg said. “All I could think was what if they walked past my house, would something bad happen to my house or my family?” 

Like Greenberg, junior Evan Pearlman recognizes that antisemitism is not just a global issue; it’s a local one too. 

“When I heard about it [the graffiti], I was actually very scared, because it was in my neighborhood, and it was something that was really close to home. I’ve been hearing about all this antisemitism on the news, but to have it so close to home, it felt personal,” Pearlman said. 

The increase in local antisemitism is something that the JDS administration acknowledges and is actively trying to combat, according to High School Principal and Upper School Campus Head Lisa Vardi.  

“Although we have heard a lot about antisemitism right now, we are seeing it in our own community, like the Bethesda Trolley Trail or at Whitman,” Vardi said. “I mean online I’m sure our students see antisemitism but now when we are seeing it in our community. It is alarming so we want to be sure that our students feel equipped with strategies…we help give our students tools and strategies to discuss this and to ensure that antisemitism isn’t happening in our community or around our community.”

On Dec. 19, the day after the graffiti was found, Pearlman joined Jews from around Montgomery County as they met at the sight of the vandalism to hear from Jewish community leaders and Whitman’s principal. At this gathering, they lit a menorah in honor of the first night of Hanukkah and said prayers to celebrate the holiday. The event was held at 8 p.m. and fire trucks attended as a show of support. Pearlman wanted to be a part of his neighborhood community and stand up against Jewish hate. 

“As Jews, we are targets of this hatred that we should stand up for the rest of our community and should take action and whether that is through JDS or not,” Pearlman said.