Two Anti-Semitic Incidents Reported to Police in Recent Days Across Area

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While Cohen-Eskin and her neighbors attempted to revise the message by painting over the symbolic hate symbols with symbols of love, folks in Lakewood are growing increasingly concerned.

On the surface, Havertown and Lakewood, N.J. — 81.2 miles apart — wouldn’t seem to have a whole lot in common, but now they do.
Within the span of a week, both were the sites of anti-Semitic incidents, the latest in a rising tide over the past couple of years, which can’t help but alarm people that hate might be just around the corner.
On Aug. 19, Havertown resident Esther Cohen-Eskin noticed a swastika spray-painted on her trash bin. And on Aug. 25, a swastika along with other anti-Semitic graffiti — including a sign inaccurately saying “Hail” rather than “Heil” Hitler —were spray-painted at a Lakewood playground directly across the street from the local yeshiva, which also serves as a day care center.
Both incidents were immediately reported to the local police and are under investigation. And both incidents drew immediate concern in their respective communities, which reacted differently.
While Cohen-Eskin and her neighbors attempted to revise the message by painting over the symbolic hate symbols with symbols of love, folks in Lakewood are growing increasingly concerned.
“It’s the second time something has happened at this particular location since July,” said Lakewood Police Department Detective Lieutenant Greg Staffordsmith, a 17-year veteran of the force. “We handle every situation the same way, since we’re not sure if they’re related or not.
“We did recover some evidence from the scene, which is being processed for investigation. But we have no leads at this time.”
Haverford Township Police officials were unavailable to comment.
But whenever such incidents occur, Congregation Beth El – Ner Tamid Rabbi Barry Blum suggested they be downplayed so as not to encourage “copycats.”
“Usually people who know Jewish history know we’re getting close to the High Holidays when they do these kinds of hateful crimes,” said Blum, who knows Cohen-Eskin, although she is not a congregant. “They probably didn’t realize the holidays are still a couple of weeks off.
“I usually tell people not to make it into a bigger deal than it already is. It happens a fair amount of time, with graffiti and swastikas. The thing that struck me is she [Cohen-Eskin] chose to take something ugly and make it beautiful — using birds and flowers to cover it over to represent the positives of life, rather than the hate.
“What I liked about Esther is trying to get the community involved.”
But there was nothing about this the Anti-Defamation League found likeable.
“We were disgusted to learn about the swastika vandalism in Havertown,” Philadelphia Assistant Regional Director Jeremy Bannett said. “The ADL reached out to the victim after we learned about the incident, but we did not hear back.
“Unfortunately, anti-Semitic vandalism, though rare, is not unheard of in the region.”
In fact, according to ADL Regional Director for North and Central New Jersey Josh Cohen, there’s been a dramatic increase of late.
“New Jersey had a 28 percent increase from the previous year in 2015, including 23 incidents in Ocean Country [where Lakewood is located],” Cohen said. “You can look at it as an increase in incidents or that members of the community are reporting them.
“They’re feeling empowered. ‘We’re not going to accept anti-Semitism in our community. We’re going to report it to the police and let the ADL know about it.’ But we have seen an increase in the past two years in New Jersey.
“We’ve offered our support and expertise to both the community and law enforcement. We want to play a helpful role if we deem it appropriate and stand ready to assist the community. ADL has a number of resources available to members of the community combating anti-Semitism and hate-related crimes.”
As for the current string of incidents, Cohen said you don’t have to be Jewish to be offended.
“It’s important after incidents like this that people in the community — whether it’s government, law enforcement, community organizations like ours — speak with one clear voice that anti-Semitism is unacceptable in Lakewood or any other community,” Cohen said. “An attack on the Jewish community is an attack on the entire community.
“We have to recognize this individual was not only trying to damage property, but delivering a message of hate. Now is the time for community healing while the police investigate.”
Contact: [email protected]m; 215-832-0729

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