A 2,200 word final feature story for my journalism class.
There’s a painting outside of the Montgomery County Executive’s office in Rockville, Maryland of a beloved local landmark. The average visitor to the county seat would pass it by without giving it a second glance. But a closer look reveals a glimpse into the heart and soul of Montgomery County.
“This painting is a symbol of how Montgomery County should be,” Isiah “Ike” Leggett said as he proudly pointed to the artwork he had commissioned. The painting depicts a band playing outside of the Strathmore in Bethesda. An Asian woman plays the flute; a black man plays the trombone; a white man plays the violin.
“The players come from diverse backgrounds and play different instruments, each with different abilities, all contributing in some way,” Leggett continued. “They come together to play a single song.”
Montgomery County has garnered a reputation as one of the most diverse counties in the nation. Here, in this county located just outside of central Maryland, residents see diversity as a source of local pride. Neighborhoods line their yards with signs welcoming immigrants and refugees in multiple languages. Houses of worship fly rainbow-colored flags and banners with ‘Black Lives Matter.’
Yet, Jewish communities in the county have become the target of religiously motivated hate crimes. Just two days after the election, on November 11, swastikas were found spray-painted in the boys’ bathroom at Westland Middle School in Bethesda. An anti-semitic note was left for a Jewish family in Rockville after they hung a ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner on their property in January. Bomb threats were reported at two Jewish community centers in Rockville. The anti-semitic incidents continue with no end in sight with messages and drawings found across Montgomery County, from Gaithersburg to Bethesda.