Jewish country club in West Bloomfield vandalized amid protests

Originally posted by Detroit Free Press

A predominantly Jewish country club in West Bloomfield Township was vandalized last week with graffiti that criticized the Israeli military and contained a threatening phrase, police said.

Four different areas of Knollwood Country Club were targeted with spray paint, with several of them that read "F--- IDF," an apparent reference to the Israel Defense Forces, and one that read "I hope U Die instead." The graffiti was discovered Friday morning by staff at the club the day after there was a scheduled event with Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at the country club that drew protesters, West Bloomfield Deputy Police Chief Dale Young told the Free Press on Wednesday.

The graffiti was painted on two signs of the country club, an outbuilding on the side, and a utility box on a traffic light pole at an exit, Young said. He said police are still investigating the incident and have not made any arrests.

Jewish advocates and State Rep. Noah Arbit, D-West Bloomfield, founder of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus, raised concerns about the vandalism.

"I am outraged and disgusted by this violation of a Jewish institution in the heart of our community," Arbit said in a statement Tuesday. "In West Bloomfield, we pride our rich diversity, and we will never be intimidated or cowed by those who come into our community to commit acts of hate."

Knollwood was founded about a century ago at a time when Jews were often excluded from country clubs because of anti-Jewish prejudice.

“The Jewish community has every right to feel furious over yet another targeted, antisemitic attack now taking place in Knollwood," said Adar Rubin, the Michigan-based director of mobilization for EndJewHatred, a group that monitors antisemitism. "Vandalizing a country club known for its historically high Jewish membership base with violent language is unacceptable and must be prosecuted as a hate crime to the full extent of the law."

At about 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15, around the time the event with Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was scheduled to take place, police were dispatched to Knollwood because about 30 protesters were obstructing traffic and blocking the entrance and exit of the parking lot, Young said. The event was relocated to another location.

"This group had several signs that had pro-Palestinian messaging on it," Young said. "The group of people eventually left once they realized that there's no event happening at the Knollwood Country Club."

Some of the protesters held up a Palestinian flag and a banner that read: "FIOF is not welcome in Michigan," an apparent reference to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a photo posted on X by Rubin shows. Others held up a banner that read: "Feminists say no to genocide, Free Palestine," another photo posted by Rubin shows.

Police did not say if there is a link between the protesters and the vandalism. It was unclear who attended the protests.

An online flier for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces event at Knollwood read: "Come together with fellow young professionals from Metro Detroit for an evening of cocktails, light bites, and meaningful conversations, as we unite in support of our courageous IDF soldiers. Gain insights into acts of heroism from former soldiers who bravely responded to the call to return to service after October 7...." Suggested donations listed online ranged from $18 to $1,000.

Before the event, some Arab American advocates called for protests and a campaign to get the event canceled.

There have been a number of protests and rallies in metro Detroit over the past few months since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel and the extensive IDF strikes on Gaza that followed. Most have been in support of Palestinians and some in support of Israel. The protests have generally been peaceful.

There have been some demonstrations that resulted in tensions. In December, a Detroit woman, Bobbi Johnson, said her face was struck after protesters opposing ongoing attacks on Gaza entered a 13th Congressional District Democratic Party holiday party that U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar, D-Detroit, was hosting. Protesters at the Dec. 16 event maintain they were the ones attacked during the dispute. Thanedar and Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Kinloch later criticized the actions of the protesters at a press conference, saying a 91-year-old Detroit woman at the party felt threatened.

"This was not a peaceful protest," Klinoch said.

In December, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a bill that Arbit introduced, the Institutional Desecration Act, which established penalties for vandalizing or destroying houses of worship or communal institutions. Arbit said the incident at the Knollwood would fall under that category.

"Attacks like these on our institutions send shockwaves throughout the Jewish community," Arbit said. "I hope perpetrators of hateful acts of vandalism like this one can be identified and brought to justice under the full extent of Michigan law, which now includes the Institutional Desecration Act."

A manager at Knollwood did not comment to the Free Press. A message sent to Friends of the Israel Defense Forces through an online from was not returned Wednesday.

Deputy Chief Young said anyone with information about the incident at Knollwood can contact West Bloomfield Police at 248-975-9200.

Reporter Bill Laytner contributed to this report.