Rash of anti-Semitic graffiti continues in Edison

Rash of anti-Semitic graffiti continues in Edison

Congregation Beth-El in Edison was defaced with swastikas on Sept. 28, 2009, hours after the end of Yom Kippur. Photo courtesy Yeshivat Netivot Montessori
Congregation Beth-El in Edison was defaced with swastikas on Sept. 28, 2009, hours after the end of Yom Kippur. Photo courtesy Yeshivat Netivot Montessori

Edison continues to be plagued by a spate of anti-Semitic graffiti, with three more incidents reported in recent weeks. Jewish community leaders have characterized the incidents as “chilling” and “disturbing.”

Police have made no arrests in any of the graffiti incidents over the last year despite increased patrols around schools, synagogues, parks, and in the areas where the incidents have occurred.

“I really hope the authorities get to the bottom of this because it is escalating and somebody must be caught and made an example of,” said Lee Livingston, president, until June 14, of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County. “This is unacceptable to our community.”

Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Congregation Beth-El, whose synagogue was splattered with swastikas the morning after Yom Kippur last fall, called for a “massive effort” to catch the perpetrators.

“Anti-Semitism exists,” he said. “I know a lot of people are saying it’s only kids but since the swastikas were put on my building, not one person has been caught. I told the chief of police I am very upset. I know the detective working on this has been working very hard but he is only one person. They need more people on the case.”

The first of the latest three incidents occurred on May 16 at John Marshall Elementary School on Cornell Street, where a swastika was found on a playground slide and the word “Hitler” was written inside a “smiley face.” The letters “ABB” were also written as was a derogatory sentence about the school, said Edison Police Lt. Sal Filannino.

A week later, graffiti that police estimated was drawn between April 15 and May 25 was found on a wooden bench in Frankel Park on Old Post Road. Included were several swastikas, two letter “Ns,” the words “curb stomp” and “skinheads rule,” and several sexually explicit drawings and comments.

Etzion Neuer, New Jersey regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said this incident was a “particularly disturbing and chilling reference to a horrific act of violence” associated with racist skinheads.

“Curb stomp” was popularized in the 1998 movie American History X and, according to Neuer, refers to placing a victim face down on a curb while stomping on the back of his head to break his teeth and push his jaw into his skull.

“Since the movie came out there have been vicious murders by skinheads emulating this scene from the movie,” he said. “Having it juxtaposed next to the works of skinheads is a deeply troubling association. To me this is an evil foreboding.”

The latest graffiti was found June 6 by a passerby at the Helping Hands Nursery School on King Georges Post Road. Five swastikas approximately 24 by 24 inches were spray-painted in black on a Dumpster, wooden fence, and side of the building, said Filannino.

They were also accompanied by anti-Semitic and anti-African-American phrases, but the police department declined to release specifics. The incident has been ruled a bias intimidation incident.

In December, an American Nazi Party sticker was found on a handicapped parking sign at the Wick Shopping Plaza on Route 1 and a large swastika was discovered on the wall of a bathroom at the Edison Public Library.

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 the second night of Rosh Hashana last September. A 16-year-old was convicted on juvenile counts of aggravated assault and bias intimidation in that incident.

On Yom Kippur evening in adjacent Highland Park, a 17-year-old Somerset youth was arrested after leaning out the window of an SUV, giving the Nazi salute, and shouting “Heil Hitler” to three Jews walking home from synagogue.

In October, a 12-year-old Jewish boy found about 15 swastikas on a slide at Paterniti Park on Vineyard Road.

Neuer said although the incidents may be the work of youths, the heavy concentration in Edison is in itself troubling.

“The whole thing is profoundly disturbing and chilling,” he said. “It is a possibility we are dealing with racist skinheads, which causes additional alarm because these people are typically not only anti-Semitic, but they are homophobic and bigoted against all racial minorities, African-Americans, Hispanics.”

Livingston said he believed the rash of incidents was indicative of a trend that “has seen xenophobia seeping through this country.”

More and more people, he said, are becoming “anti-minority and by that I mean anti-Jewish, anti-Hispanic, anti-Indian, anti-Muslim,” he added. “It is appalling and frightening.”

Those with information on any incident should contact Edison detective Alan Sciarrillo at 732-248-7561 or Sgt. John Rodriquez of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office bias crimes unit at 732-745-4386.

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