Fallon House vandalism
ELSA E. WINCH
It is unfortunate, and more importantly, disturbing, that I find myself writing about an antisemitic incident that happened in Lock Haven, at the Fallon House. Surely, I am not alone.
I am one member of Lock Haven’s Jewish population. I also belong to Temple Beth Ha Sholom, the Reform Jewish congregation in Williamsport, one of the oldest synagogues in central Pennsylvania. This was where my children attended religious school, learned Hebrew, and met and made friends with other Jewish children. As a parent, I celebrated my daughter’s and son’s Bat and Bar Mitzvahs with their father, our Rabbis, family, and community of friends. My children grew up in Lock Haven. Both are graduates of the Keystone Central school district, and both have maintained significant friendships with peers and adults in this area. I live and work in the city of Lock Haven. Our Jewish identities are intertwined with that of Lock Haven, Clinton county, and our Temple family.
Obviously, the spray-painted slurs and symbols were intended to shock, or as an unkind joke. Perhaps they were genuine expressions of hate. More likely the offenders are just destructive jerks. This vandalism, while it was not targeting me and my children, does prey upon a part of our identity. It hits us in our home. Slurs and symbols make us feel vulnerable, shocked, angry, or hurt because we are unwelcome. Racist symbols and actions have power and influence–but they also serve as a lens to help us recognize where hate can lead unchecked.
I am also concerned that this negative incident has cast an unflattering light on Lock Haven. My family has never experienced antisemitism here. I am grateful to live in this beautiful area, and to be part of a friendly, safe, and service-oriented community. I am also encouraged that Mr. Chisolm believes Lock Haven is a good place to establish a fresh start for a historic old building, and that he plans to continue with the renovation of the Fallon House. As he noted in the 7/13 edition of the Express, “If we’re a community, let’s work together as a community.”
I can certainly agree with that.