Schools across America plagued by antisemitic vandalism, hate crimes

From antisemitic graffiti to swastikas found on a university campus, American school systems are facing a big increase of hate crimes.

A school bus used for transporting New York City public school students is seen driving down 135th avenue in the Queens borough of New York  (photo credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)
A school bus used for transporting New York City public school students is seen driving down 135th avenue in the Queens borough of New York
(photo credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)

Schools across America are used to cleaning vandalism every now and then, but the staff at an elementary school in Long Island, New York got the shock of their lives when arriving at the school grounds.

The Merrick Union Free School District officials announced in early September that graffiti had been spray-painted across the Birch School grounds.

"The Merrick Union Free School District does not tolerate bias."

District Superintendent Dominick Palma

According to StopAntisemitsm, the graffiti included the Star of David, the word "Jew" and the date 9/13 as well. It was spray-painted on trees, bleachers and an outdoor gaga pit.

 CHILDREN GET OFF a yeshiva school bus in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. (credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters) CHILDREN GET OFF a yeshiva school bus in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. (credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

"The district takes matters such as this extremely seriously," District Superintendent Dominick Palma said. "The Merrick Union Free School District does not tolerate bias."

Palma then continued and said that the buildings and grounds crew worked until midday to get rid of the antisemitic graffiti. The incident was also reported to the Nassau County Police Department. Palma added saying that the district was cooperating with the police in their investigation by providing video footage. "Anyone with information about the incident, please contact the NCPD,"  he said.

"I think history has shown us that hatred always starts with one group. It could be the Jews, it could be others, but it never stops. It seeks to destroy our society."

Rabbi Shimon Kramer, the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Merrick

Local media reports that Rabbi Shimon Kramer, Rabbi of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Merrick also spoke out against the graffiti. Kramer was the victim of a hate crime back in 1994, when a man opened fire at his car, killing two of the passengers as well as injuring another one.

"I think history has shown us that hatred always starts with one group," Kramer said. "It could be the Jews, it could be others, but it never stops. It seeks to destroy our society."

Despite the antisemitism on the school grounds, Kramer said that incidents like these should encourage others to remain positive. "Every time I hear something like this, I think it's important to spread the love," he said. "To show whoever is responsible that there is a community full of love they are going up against.

"We have to condemn the hatred, of course, but I think we have to give them a message - and hopefully the message we give is one of love," he added.

Palma added, "Our community is no place for hate. As we begin our year, we remain committed to making sure our entire school community feels they belong and are accepted. As such, we will continue to incorporate lessons of tolerance and understanding of others within our curriculum"

"Show whoever is responsible that there is a community full of love they are going up against."

Rabbi Shimon Kramer

Sacramento State University also recent target

A swastika was found at the Sacramento State University, making it the third swastika that was found this month on campus. This time, it was found "defacing a sign in the Arboretum with the words 'white pride nation wide'".

StopAntisemitism tweeted, "Per California law, it is illegal to use hate symbols, including swastikas, on K-12 and college campuses."

In another tweet from StopAntisemitism, there is a link to Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen's letter to the students, "We must continuously and vociferously condemn hate speech and hate symbols. This type of defacement is deeply troubling and hurtful and does not reflect the caring community that we want and need to be for our Hornet Family."

The Sacramento skyline, as seen from The Ziggurat in West Sacramento, California. (credit: J.SMITH/CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)The Sacramento skyline, as seen from The Ziggurat in West Sacramento, California. (credit: J.SMITH/CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

According to the local ABC news site, Nelsen said that the University is working on building a town hall in the near future. In the meantime, Sacramento State is calling on people to report any and all kinds of hate symbols or messages if they find any.

"We must work together to create and maintain an antiracist campus where everyone feels welcome and safe," Nelsen said in the letter.

He also added that the campus police have been notified and they are investigating the incident.