Museums statewide condemn antisemitic vandalism

Two incidents, one in May, one in September, have marred the museum this year.

This screen capture from surveillance footage released by the Anchorage Police Department shows a masked man vandalizing the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage in May. (Courtesy photo / APD)

This screen capture from surveillance footage released by the Anchorage Police Department shows a masked man vandalizing the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage in May. (Courtesy photo / APD)

More than 40 museums across Alaska signed a letter roundly condemning repeated antisemitic vandalism of the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage in 2021.

The vandalism, occurring in both May in September, involved swastikas being placed on as stickers or carved into the door of the museum, said Dixie Clough, director of Museums Alaska, a statewide museum association.

“There has been an increase in antisemitic behavior in Anchorage over the past few months, and we saw a role for museums as community educators to stand up against these hateful acts,” says Clough. “We want to ensure that the museum attacker is brought to justice, and that the Alaska Jewish community knows that they are not alone. They have support across the state.”

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Surveillance footage of the museum from the first incident, occurring in May, shows a man with his features concealed by a ski mask placing swastika stickers on the door of the museum in the early morning, according to an Anchorage Police Department social media post.

“There are over 100 museums in the state of Alaska founded and managed by people who have a passion for sharing the history and many different cultures of Alaska with residents and visitors,” Clough said in a news release. “Alaskan museums are appalled by the attacks, and they are eager to show support for the Alaska Jewish Museum and the Alaska Jewish Campus as they seek to address these crimes and ensure the safety of their facilities and community.”

The vandalism in September and the response from Museums Alaska come on the heels of a furor as some residents of Anchorage likened the requirement to wear a face mask to the targeted, systematic oppression, displacement and genocide of millions of Jewish people and others in Nazi Germany, defended initially by the city’s mayor, according to the Associated Press.

Antisemitism and awareness of the Holocaust is an issue in Alaska, a state ranked 41st out of 50 in 2020 in terms of being informed when being surveyed for knowledge of the appalling tragedy.

“This vandalism is an attack on all of us and the inclusive Alaska history our institutions were founded to tell. History reveals that malicious acts increase during uncertain times, and they flourish when encouraged or ignored by people in leadership positions,” Clough said in the news release. “We will not ignore this spiteful act and we will work with the Alaska Jewish Museum to combat bigotry and prejudice in all its forms.”

The AJM has partnered with nonprofit organization StandWithUs Northwest, which fights antisemitism, to offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction for the vandalism investigation.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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