Synagogue "Sign" A Hoax

  • October 13, 2008

A much forwarded e-mail timed to coincide with the Jewish High Holidays and the 2008 presidential election campaign contains what appears to be a photograph of a billboard for "Beth Sholom Synagogue."

The billboard bears an offensive message: "Happy New Year! Please vote for the Shavartzeh!"  (Shvartzah is considered a derogatory Yiddish term for a Black person, and the sign is an obvious reference to the 2008 presidential campaign).

This "picture" was generated by an Internet-based computer program and is not real.

This image was created on a Web site called "church sign generator," a site that enables anyone to create their own message and make it look as if it appears on an actual sign outside of a church, synagogue or mosque.

While the site's creators say their software filters offensive words, they also note that "it is literally impossible to filter every offensive word or phrase that someone can enter, without restricting use of the site for people who use it legitimately."

There are many similar programs available on the Internet.  While most are intended for amusement, occasionally the sites are abused by those with an agenda to use the Internet to spread racist, anti-Semitic or bigoted messages.  In this case, the circulated image is stamped with the watermark of "churchsigngenerator.com" and therefore is more easily identifiable as bogus.

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