Antisemetic Vandalism in Plandome, Long Island

Here’s a personal account of the recent anti-semitic vandalism that struck our Long Island community this past weekend:
When I arrived at my office Friday night, I found a red swastika spray-painted on my door, on the side of our building. The police were called, we filed a report, and no other vandalism was found. We chalked it up to one stupid/drunk kid, had our shabbat services, and went home. The cops stuck around until midnight, and when they returned to check in at 6am on Saturday morning, the entire side of our building had been vandalized – two large rocks thrown through office windows, many more spray-painted swastikas, phrases such as “cheap jews rot in hell” and “f*ck Jews,” SS markings and “heil hitlers,” etc. Needless to say, we were very much shaken up by the whole experience, and the extent and viciousness of the vandalism.
-We cleaned up our building, which is back to “normal” (except for the two windows which are boarded up and need replacing). -The vandals not only hit our building, but several other sites (an elementary school and a private residence, among others) in the vicinity. Fortunately, some of the markings that they used were specific to a particular neo-nazi group, and lead the cops to the arrest of two suspects – a 17 year old and a 20 year-old, both of whom worked at our local Staples, right down the street from our synagogue (!!).
-I was proud that both our senior rabbi and our executive director were quoted in the papers reminding people that acts of hatred can occur anywhere there is ignorance – against Jews, gays, Muslims, people of color, etc.
Newsday reports on the original incidents and the NYTimes article on the arrests.
So, the larger question for me, at this time of year – where is the potential for teshuva? Can it come if the vandals sit down with Mickey, a member of our shul and a survivor of Auschwitz who encountered the swastika with me at services on Friday night? Is there potential for redemption in the fact that the lead suspect listed “American History X” – the story of the repentance of a troubled young man-turned-neo-nazi – as one of his favorite films on his myspace page? The latest newspaper articles show a disappointing lack of contrition from the two suspect’s attorneys, but also points to alcohol abuse and mental illness as catalysts for this attack. After we sweep up the broken glass and paint our building, where do/can we go from here?
-submitted by Cantor Eric Schulmiller, Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore in Plandome, NY

3 thoughts on “Antisemetic Vandalism in Plandome, Long Island

  1. I understand the desire to attempt to find a sign of hope in the wake of this incident– looking on the personal quest for redemption made by the former neo-Nazi skinhead protagonist of “American History X” as an example (a worthy film), but let us not forget, that even in the case of films like “Star Wars” which have a far less ambiguous moral message there is an element of the fan base that oddly enough identify the most with the faceless stormtroopers. I have no doubt that there are fans of “American History X” who will ignore the protagonist’s quest to make amends for his racist, anti-semitic past and instead revel in the havock and hatred.

  2. I think attributing their acts to alcohol abuse and mental illness displays the right attitude which has connections to teshuvah and new beginnings. I subscribe to the attitude that Anti-Semitism and any racism for that matter is a form of illness, where the psyche, individual and/or collective, is externalizing an excess of hatred onto another in order to prevent a total internal collapse. By not reacting to this hatred, by not trying to match it with a combative attitude, I think you have achieved what is needed. Funny,I was thinking today while eating my lunch, stewing over personal issues, that righteousness is paradoxical. It seems righteousness is when you go beyond right and wrong, and simply seek to understand what is coming at you. The minute you take an “I am right” attitude you lower yourself to a bullheaded warrior who is immediately wrong because one’s view becomes so narrow and selfish. These are some poor sick kids full of violence and hate. They are probably trying to protect loved ones by diverting their rage elsewhere. I guess that also makes them brokenhearted. I certainly don’t advocate martyrdom, and believe that they belong in jail and at the same time I don’t think our society has the appropriate socio-legal mechanisms to deal with them. Maybe there is no new beginning here, just the acknowledgment that the end of such nonsense is nowhere near.

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