Edison police probe string of anti-Semitic incidents

Edison police probe string of anti-Semitic incidents

A car at the Lexus dealership on Route One in Edison with a swastika scratched into it on Aug. 12, one of eight cars employees found defaced.
A car at the Lexus dealership on Route One in Edison with a swastika scratched into it on Aug. 12, one of eight cars employees found defaced.

The latest in a string of anti-Semitic incidents and swastika graffiti in Edison over the last year has prompted police to step up patrols for the High Holy Days and one local rabbi to post a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the incidents.

In the latest occurrence, eight cars were found damaged, two of them with swastikas scratched into them, by employees coming to work on Aug. 12 at the Lexus dealership on Route One, said Lt. Sal Filannino of the Edison Police Department. Other damage included additional graffiti and stolen tires.

Although there have been no arrests, police are reviewing footage from security cameras at the dealership.

On Saturday evening, July 31, a 57-year-old man and his 12-year-old son were subject to anti-Semitic slurs as they walked on Campbell Avenue toward Congregation Ahavas Yisrael, an Orthodox shul on Route 27. A dark-colored, newer-model sedan pulled up next to them, said Filannino, and a young man yelled anti-Semitic slurs at them before driving away.

“To my way of thinking the Route 27 incident was much more severe because it was directed toward someone and was definitely anti-Semitic,” said Filannino.

Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Congregation Beth-El said it was not uncommon for religious Jews to hear anti-Semitic slurs as they walk on or near Route 27. Rosenberg is offering $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of those who last year spray-painted swastikas on the doors and windows of his synagogue the morning after Yom Kippur, or those responsible for any of the other incidents.

“On at least 12 occasions I have been called ‘Jew boy’ or been told, ‘You should have burned in Auschwitz’ as my wife and I walked to Friday night services,” Rosenberg said. The victims often “don’t report them because they have a European mentality” of not wanting to bring attention to their Jewish identity. He himself did not report all the incidents.

Calling bias incidents “the scourge of society” and noting they were “appalled” by the incidents, the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County released a strongly worded statement from its president. Arlene Frumkin, and Philip Cantor, chair of its Jewish Community Relations Council.

They urged adoption of a “zero tolerance” policy and that local and county educators, political leaders, and public agencies to “take a strong stand to collaboratively address and resolve this issue as a top communal priority.”

‘Deeply troubling’

The first of a string of such incidents occurred last fall on the second night of Rosh Hashana, when a 19-year-old student at Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva in Edison sustained a concussion after being taunted and jumped by a group of teens on Woodbridge Avenue. A 16-year-old was convicted of juvenile counts of aggravated assault and bias intimidation in that incident.

Since then swastikas have been found in the library, in parks, and at a nursery school. With the exception of the yeshiva attack, no one has been caught in any of the incidents.

“It’s deeply troubling,” said Etzion Neuer, New Jersey director of the Anti-Defamation League. “For whatever reason, there seems to be a cluster of incidents in and around the Edison area, and it’s a trend we find alarming.”

Neuer said he expects to meet with law enforcement officials to determine what can be done “in a thoughtful and clear-headed way.”

“While these incidents are troubling, people have to remember the police take them very seriously and investigate them seriously,” said Neuer. “The community has to look at these incidents…not just from a short-term emotional view, but from a long-term and thoughtful view.”

However, he also cautioned that for every bias incident reported, there are several that go unreported.

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