Maywood shocked by hate graffiti at local synagogue

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Maywood shocked by hate graffiti at local synagogue

Postby MaywoodBiz » Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:02 pm

Maywood shocked by hate graffiti at local synagogue

The Record

Borough police are searching for clues to whoever spray-painted swastikas and wrote hate messages at a local synagogue Saturday night.

By Monday afternoon, municipal crews had cleaned up most of the graffiti, but some vestiges were visible on the sidewalk.

Two congregants arrived Sunday morning to Temple Beth Israel to find a red-and-black spray-painted swastika on the sidewalk in front of the handicapped-accessible ramp and a message stating that Jews caused the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to local officials. The temple, located on West Magnolia Avenue, also was marked with a swastika painted onto one of its columns, as well as a cryptic reference to “4-18” on the sidewalk in front of the building. There was also another swastika on the front sign.

“Everyone was shocked about it,” said Borough Administrator Thomas Richards. “It’s absolutely shocking. The synagogue has been a part of our community since the 1930s, and this is the first time this has ever happened.”

Borough police Detective Sgt. Mark Gillies said that “The Maywood Police Department is conducting a thorough investigation into this incident.”

Rabbi Jarah Greenfield said she turned the incident into a Hebrew School lesson for students, and their parents, who came Sunday morning to classes.

“We asked them if they knew what these symbols stood for and talked about anti-Semitism and the Nazi era. I asked them how it made them feel and we talked about how we should respond to this as a community,” she said. “It was very healing.”

Spreading enlightenment

The Temple is inviting borough officials, interfaith clergy and concerned citizens to a night of spreading enlightenment in the community next Tuesday, Dec. 20, which is the first night of Chanukah, said Greenfield — “The goal is to support one another and celebrate our diversity.”

Temple Beth Israel is the sole synagogue in Maywood and the only Reconstructionist synagogue in Bergen County, drawing members from throughout North Jersey and New York. The temple, dating back to the 1920s, is housed in a picturesque, wooden building that was built originally as a church but has been home to the temple since 1931. A sign in front says “All are welcome.”

Neighbors on West Magnolia Avenue, which was decked in Christmas trimmings, said they were shocked by the hate graffiti.

“That’s pretty awful,” said Lori O’Connell, who lives three houses down from the temple. “I’m disheartened to hear it.”

The biggest complaint she said she’s heard about the temple is that it creates parking problems on days when it has services. Otherwise, she said, the children in the area have played with children from the temple and relations have been peaceful.

Lisa Montany, who lives across the street from the temple, echoed her sentiments.

“I’ve lived here since I was five years old and never heard anything like this before,” she said. Montany, who was at home Saturday night and whose windows face the temple, said she didn’t hear anything amiss.

“We have a mix of people in this town and we all get along,” she said. “It’s a great town and a great block. This is so sad.”

Etzion Neuer, director of Community Service & Policy at the Anti-Defamation League, said that New Jersey ranked third in the country in anti-Semitic incidents in 2010. Despite being one of the smallest states, the state consistently ranks among the highest in the country in both hate crimes and anti-Semitic incidents, he said.

He said he was pleased to see the degree to which Maywood police and local officials took the incident seriously.

“Sadly, incidents of hate take place with regularity all across New Jersey,” he said. “But for us, a true judge of a town is not that a hate incident took place but rather how the town responds to it.”

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