Together, we must condemn incidents of hate

May 3, 2019

As incidents of hatred against Jews and other minority groups continue to rise in this country, the people of Santa Fe and New Mexico must collectively condemn such prejudice. It’s not enough to shake our heads in disgust. We must speak out publicly and declare: “This is wrong.”

Earlier this week, a plaque in the Railyard Park dedicated to the Spiegelberg brothers was defaced, with the word, “Jews” written in white paint across the surface. The Spiegelbergs, six German Jewish merchants and bankers, also became the type of civic leaders who helped transform Santa Fe back in the 1800s.

In 1842, when Solomon Spiegelberg came to America, he became the first Jewish merchant on the Santa Fe Trail, going so far as to learn Spanish to better communicate with the people in the then-Mexican territory. Eventually, he brought his siblings over to work in his mercantile enterprise. He and his brothers helped Santa Fe and New Mexico transition from the frontier to the modern era, and we have reason to be grateful for their contributions to help complete the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

All people here should all know about the Spiegelbergs and their contributions to New Mexico.

By now, city Parks and Recreation Department workers have scrubbed the word, but the ugly taste remains. This cannot be who we become.

This scrawl on the plaque might have been the first recorded incident of anti-Semitism in Santa Fe in 2019, but one incident is one too many. Especially coming in the week after a gunman shot up a synagogue in San Diego, killing one woman and injuring three others. That shooting came six months after a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 people dead.

In New Mexico, the Anti-Defamation League said intolerance in New Mexico is growing more commonplace. The league, which tracks incidents of anti-Semitism and acts of hate across the United States, record eight acts of anti-Semitism against Jews in New Mexico last year. That’s one of our worst showings.

New Mexico has had years with one, two, even no incidents of hate recorded against Jews since 2008. The year of 2017 was an outlier, with 15 incidents confirmed. We must ensure that such hatefulness is on the decline and make zero incidents our common goal.

As Rabbi Neil Amswych of Temple Beth Shalom told reporter Sarah Halasz Graham: “This act is just a symptom of the wave of intolerance that is sweeping across this nation, particularly in the last few years, stoked by inflammatory rhetoric from the highest office in the land.”

For better role models, we need to look to each other and to that longtime Santa Fe tradition of tolerance and respect for all.

This is not a perfect community, living in mythical tri-cultural harmony. But Santa Fe has been — and continues to be — a place that strives to be welcoming and kind. In dark times, we must hold fast to that legacy and share it with the world.