Thoughts on Hateful Graffiti

Dear Friends,

Those of you who are on social media probably saw this week that the 103rd Street/Broadway subway station was defaced with swastikas, SS symbols and some other vile words towards us all.

Was this the work of actual white supremacists here in the heart of the Jewish ’hood of the Upper West Side? Was it some teenage knuckleheads who pose no threat to anyone but themselves? Was its appearance on the date of Kristallnacht a coincidence or a message? Who knows.

The MTA cleaned it off at once, the police and our State Assembly Rep. Danny O’Donnell reached out to us and the other synagogues to let us know they are investigating this as a possible hate crime. As I said on Kol Nidre night in my remarks, hate crimes are way up in our city. And most hate crimes – literally a numerical majority – are anti-Jewish. Don’t panic: around 80% of those vandalism, not assaults. But when people draw swastikas and threats on subway walls, what’s next?

I am not panicking or, I hope, making too big a deal out of a relatively minor event. But I also felt our community would be justified in expecting to hear from me before Shabbat. So let me remind you of a few things you already know:

We are vigilant. We have increased Ansche Chesed’s security on Shabbat and holidays in recent years and will – especially with our planned lobby renovations – continue this trend moving forward.

We are alert. In 2019, white supremacists and their terrible influence is not something to be dismissed. This is real. So pay attention and whenever you see something, say something.

We are well-loved. This city and state and even this confused nation stands with the Jewish people, as we have seen many times in recent years, such after Pittsburgh. Our local public safety and elected officials rose at once to express their support and care for us.

We are here. We are home. We are unintimidated. People who hate others think the world would be better if some particular set of so-and-so’s would just disappear, and take their bad values and strange ways and ugly faces with them. Too bad. The whole wide world, all 50 United States, and the 5 boroughs of New York City need us. Our community gives a cold city a warm heart. Thanks to the Torah and the mitzvot and our traditions, Jews share wisdom, worship, kindness, poetry, story and celebration. Thank God for that. So fly the flag unashamed. Don’t let any stupid graffiti silence you.