September 27, 2023
spray-painted word

Rabbi Asher Altschul of Congregation Beth Shalom of Kings Bay in Brooklyn arrived at work early Wednesday morning — only to see the spray-painted word “Hitler” defacing a wall on the outside of the synagogue’s building.

Councilwoman Inna Vernikov, who represents the synagogue’s district, received a notice of the incident. Per a statement from her office, she has begun working with NYPD to remove it.

In a video responding to the vandalism, Vernikov said that the synagogue, which is only three blocks from her house, counts many Holocaust survivors among its congregants.

“There are Holocaust survivors who attend this shul,” Vernikov said in the video. “And after the atrocities they have seen during World War II, they now have to come to a synagogue in the United States of America in 2022 and see a spray-painted word Hitler sign on the wall.”

“This is not just something we’re seeing in the media; this is happening in our own backyards,” said Vernikov, who represents District 48, which includes several neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations.

New York led the nation in antisemitic incidents reported in the United States in 2021, according to data collected by the Anti-Defamation League. In the first six months of 2022, NYPD’s Hate Crime Dashboard recorded 149 antisemitic bias incidents, compared to 106 incidents at the same time last year.

Gov.Kathy Hochul signed a bill bolstering state requirements for Holocaust education into law on Aug. 10. In 2020, a study found that 60% of New Yorkers weren’t aware that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

“As governor of a state with 40,000 Holocaust survivors and the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, I take this hatred personally because I feel wounded as a human being to know that someone else is harmed in our state,” Hochul said after signing the bill. “And I’ll continue to fight back with the full force of our government, not just to combat it and talk about it, but to criminalize it, prosecute the perpetrators and stop it in its tracks.”

“Antisemitism must be condemned every time it rears its ugly head,” said Councilwoman Rita Joseph, who represents a district that saw antisemitic graffiti painted on a subway station in February. “When I saw the disgusting graffiti in my colleague’s district, I knew immediately that I had to speak out against it.”

“At a time when antisemitic violence is far too high, non-Jewish leaders like myself have an obligation to offer allyship. Whether it’s antisemitism, Islamophobia, sexism, racism, or anti-queer discrimination, I’m going to stand up against bigotry.”

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