NEW YORK — Days after Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel, Rachel Glazer put up a sign in support of Israel on her front lawn in a Boston suburb.
“When I get up, I look to see if my sign is still there,” said Glazer, an event planner. Although she lives in a neighborhood with a substantial Jewish population, she’s never 100 percent sure the sign will make it through the night as US media reports near daily incidents of antisemitic vandalism since October 7.
Police reports show nighttime raids across the US since at least early November, during which “dozens” or “more than 100” Israel signs are stolen in a particular town by groups of vandals.
There are also numerous reports of Israeli flags being stolen from people’s yards, sometimes in tandem with pro-Israel signs.
In the absence of national data, police reports and media accounts demonstrate that at least several thousand pro-Israel signs and flags have been stolen across the US, apart from signs and flags that were defaced.
During the unprecedented Hamas onslaught, 1,200 people in Israel were murdered and 240 people were kidnapped into Gaza as hostages. Since then, Glazer has become one of hundreds of activists supplying Israel supporters with lawn signs across the US, sometimes in the absence of support from local Jewish federations.
Glazer was prepared for the current crisis after selling signs in support of Ukraine last year. Likewise, during the pandemic, she worked to “bring the party to people’s homes,” creating lawn installations for graduations, birthdays, and other occasions.
“I hope to keep going,” said Glazer, who has sold 325 pro-Israel signs, raising $7,000 for Magen David Adom and Brothers for Life, she told The Times of Israel.
As opposed to elsewhere in the country, only two people within Glazer’s Boston-area network have reported their pro-Israel signs were removed or vandalized, she said.
Outside Boston’s bucolic suburbs, however, Israel-related lawn signs are being vandalized or removed at a dizzying pace.
In Skokie, Illinois, dozens of pro-Israel lawn signs have been removed by vandals during nighttime raids. Many of the acts were caught on security cameras, with footage demonstrating several vandals acting together.
“It’s a minimum of 100 houses this happened at, which is incredibly scary, highly problematic,” said Skokie resident Annie Warshaw, whose pro-Israel sign — along with many others — was stolen by vandals the night of November 2.
“We’re all terrified. I’m a granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor. All of us, this is just in our bodies,” Warshaw told local media.
Other Skokie Jews said vandalism has spurred them to show additional support for Israel on their property.
“And I’m going to get five more, ten more,” resident Leah Graber told a reporter.
The bulk of pro-Israel lawn signs are produced by private individuals and Jewish — as well as Christian — organizations. Searches of websites including Amazon, eBay, and etsy, show that vendors’ “top selling” Israel signs are most often sold in relatively small batches — by the hundreds. Rarely are more than 1,000 versions of a given sign produced and shipped.
‘I am looking for my family’
Political lawn signs have long played a substantial role in American public discourse, with John Quincy Adams introducing the practice more than 200 years ago. Ever since, their effectiveness has been hotly debated.
According to data, one in five American homes will place a political yard sign in a given year. Even if the signs can’t be tied directly to votes, something about them is uniquely American, say experts.
“Lawn signs feed the irrepressible urge by most of us humans to turn everything we do into a sport,” wrote political expert Mark Robinson in the CT Mirror. “Speaking our minds and supporting our candidates is great, but what we really want to do is WIN!”
In the 2016 and 2020 election cycles, lawn signs played an outsized role. Traditionally associated with Republicans, progressive voters increasingly took to placing signs for causes including “Black Lives Matter” and reproductive rights.
According to crime logs, pro-Israel signs are being stolen or vandalized in “red” and “blue” states alike.
For example, in Wilton, Connecticut, rich with colonial history, the town’s first selectwoman, Lynne Vanderslice, said the rampant theft of pro-Israel lawn signs in recent weeks has been “illegal” and “intolerable.”
‘Afraid to put out signs’
After purchasing a “We Stand With Israel” lawn sign and positioning it in his front yard, Ed Wallack of Boston volunteered to help Glazer distribute the signs locally.
“The people who I have distributed the signs to are simply supporting the Jewish state of Israel against a wanton, murderous, terrorist, savage campaign to kill babies, rape women, and mutilate soldiers,” Wallack told The Times of Israel.
“It is interesting that as I have spoken to neighbors who have seen my sign and told friends about the sign, the reaction is that many are taken aback that I would affirmatively declare my support for Israel for all to see,” said Wallack, who identified himself as a secular Jew who does not attend a synagogue.
“I believe many individuals who share the support of Israel are afraid to put up signs out of concern for their own and their family’s safety,” said Wallack.
Echoing Wallack, Glazer said she’s “had people donate to the charities but not take the signs.”
Among Israel-sign vendors interviewed for this article, the largest quantity of signs has been produced and sold by Dana Bar-Or and Sharona Taibe, both based in the Boston area.
In addition to their Israel activism, both women have children who are “lone soldiers” serving in the IDF. Profits from their signs are going to the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center in Israel.
“We had to do something because we saw our local federation was not doing anything,” Bar-Or, an attorney, told The Times of Israel.
So far, the duo has sold more than 4,000 signs in towns all over Massachusetts, in addition to giving many away for free. The signs — manufactured in Stoughton, south of Boston — include elements from both countries’ flags, as well as a camera icon to deter vandals from theft. There is also a QR code to scan for information on the hostages.
“We wanted to do something that reflected the bond between America and Israel,” said Bar-Or. She has had to replace the sign put out by Chabad in Wellesley on multiple occasions due to theft and vandalism, she said.
“We also had someone in Sudbury, Massachusetts, ask to buy 100 signs that say, ‘United Against Antisemitism,’” said Bar-Or. She and Taibe started their activism because no one was creating large quantities of pro-Israel signs for beleaguered community members.
“I don’t think we should be afraid to show our Jewish pride,” said Bar-Or. “Otherwise we are back in Germany in the 1930s,” she said.
One Boston community member, IDF veteran Gilad Skolnick, said the efforts of activists like Bar-Or and Taibe are “beautiful because they are grassroots initiatives.”
“I honestly think that no organization had imagined that people would want to put those signs in their yards, including because of safety reasons and discomfort with Israel,” said Skolnick, a former Hillel executive director.
“You could say that certain organizations didn’t step up, but every Jewish organization is swamped now and that is the beauty of our community, too, that there are a lot of people taking initiative,” said Skolnick.
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