‘Free Palestine’ graffiti defaces Pico-Robertson mural

UPDATE #2: Painting love over hate on vandalized mural

UPDATE: Countergraffiti discovered on already-defaced Workmen’s Circle wall.

A mural on the south side of the Arbeter Ring/Workmen’s Circle Southern California campus at 1525 S. Robertson Blvd was defaced with graffiti that reads “Free Palestine!!!!”

It was not immediately clear when the graffiti was spray-painted onto the building, as phones at the center were not answered on Thursday morning, Jan. 6, the day the Journal learned about the vandalism.

The wall-sized mural itslef –  titled, ”A shenere un besere velt,” according to the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (a Yiddish phrase meaning, “A more beautiful and better world) – depicts cultural, biblical and historical imagery. The imagery includes a menorah, Israelites wandering in the desert, a young girl waving Israeli and American flags, and more.

Artist Elisio Art Silva completed the mural in 1998, according to the conservancy organization.

Photos obtained by the Journal on Thursday morning by a Pico-Robertson resident who was driving by and spotted the defaced building show the graffiti spaning nearly the entire length of the building, which, according to the conservancy group, measures 60-feet-long and 15-feet-high.

Robert Adler-Peckerar, executive director of the L.A.-based organization Yiddishkayt, which is a frequent collaborator with the national office and local branch of Workmen’s Circle, said the message of the graffiti reflects an ignorance about the mission of the victimized group. He described Workmen's Circle as being historically committed to ideas of “social progress, equality, human rights, civil rights and the general pursuit of human dignity,” which includes promoting a “progressive, peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

“I feel like this [the graffiti] indicates something much more about thoughtlessness than about an actual commitment to a free Palestine,” Adler-Peckerar said in an interview. “And a tremendous amount of cultural illiteracy [on the vandal(s)’ part].”

Workmen’s Circle, an educational organization that celebrates Yiddish culture, emphasizes the Jewish connection to social justice and more, has evolved over the years since its founding in 1900 by what it describes on its website as a group of “progressive-minded Jews.”

During its early years, the organization fought on behalf of Eastern-European Jewish immigrants in the United States–whose primary language was often Yiddish—on matters related to labor practices, health insurance, burial costs and more.

As the needs of the American-Jewish community changed, so too did workmen’s circle. Today, the organization, which maintains a national office in New York and operates in at least six other cities, including Los Angeles, runs schools, a camp, adult education classes, a learning center and more.

The venue of the Los Angeles branch, the target of the graffiti, offers programs on “Secular Jewishness;” “Yiddish Language;” “Art and Music;” and “Social Justice.”

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