In what appeared to be the latest round, police reported Monday that vandals in Forest Hills knocked over menorahs at 8:50 a.m. at two Queens Boulevard intersections near 70th Avenue and 66th Road. The incidents were being investigated as possible bias crimes.
"Whenever the Jews are perceived as weak, the anti-Semites come crawling out of the woodwork," said Rabbi Jay Shoulson, the head of the congregation Sons of Israel Orthodox synagogue at 33-21 Crescent St. in Long Island City that was defaced with a swastika on Nov. 29. "But it's a different world today. Jews aren't afraid anymore. If we have to protect our members and escort the elderly home, we do it. Nobody's going to hurt them."
The carving of a 5-by-6-inch swastika into the door of the Sons of Israel was one of a series of anti-Semitic acts that took place over Thanksgiving weekend in Queens and Brooklyn.
According to police, other anti-Semitic incidents included the spray-painting of a swastika inside an elevator at 99-16 67th Rd. in Forest Hills on Nov. 29; the carving of a swastika inside an elevator at 93-57 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills on Nov. 27; the spray-painting of anti-Semitic graffiti on the walls and floor of a house on 114th Street in the 106th Precinct and the slashing of tires on 28 cars in Borough Park, Brooklyn on Nov. 27.
The Thanksgiving weekend anti-Semitic incidents are still being investigated, police said. No arrests have been made yet in connection with the acts.
The incidents occurred shortly after the Nov. 15 bombings of the Neve Shalom and Beth Israel synagogues in Istanbul, Turkey, that killed 23 people and wounded more than 300, and the Nov. 21 bombing of the British consulate and the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation headquarters in Turkey that killed 30 people and injured more than 450.
"Whether in Borough Park, Brooklyn, or at the British consulate in Turkey, violent acts of hate and prejudice are as repugnant as they are intolerable," said Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who spoke at a rally held on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan on Dec. 3 to denounce anti-Semitism. "Any senseless bigot, whether a tire-slasher or a terrorist, must be weeded out and brought to justice, both here at home and abroad."
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) said a number of constituents had called his office to express their concern over the recent anti-Semitic incidents.
"In general, they said that it's worrisome, that they'd like to know what's going on and what can be done about it," said Weiner's spokesman. "Any anti-Semitic incident is disturbing and hateful, and it's a cause for real concern, whether it's swastikas or anti-Semitic language or tire slashings."
Shoulson said aside from having his synagogue protected by building watchers and police, not much could be done to prevent anti-Semitic acts.
"The police are very pro-active now about watching the area, and we have people that watch the building, and that's about the best we can do," said the rabbi.
U.S. Rep. Michael Nelson (D-Brooklyn), the chairman of the City Council's Jewish Caucus, and the city council representative from Borough Park, called upon all New Yorkers to denounce the anti-Semitic acts and urge the perpetrators to turn themselves in.
"New York City has always been the most tolerant city in the world," said Nelson. "If we lose that trait, then we are in deep, deep trouble. The Council does not take hatred and intolerance lightly."
Shoulson said the door of the Sons of Israel has been repaired and repainted and looks better than it did before.
"If you don't educate people and teach them that hatred is baseless, you won't stop (anti-Semitism)," the rabbi said. "The world has always needed a scapegoat, and the Jews have always been a target."
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2004 Community News Group
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