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Swastikas in Colorado

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A swastika appeared at B'nai Chaim in Morrison this past week.A RASH of scrawled swastikas across the Front Range over the past month has plagued both Jewish and non-Jewish targets and sent law enforcement agencies in three jurisdictions in pursuit of the perpetrators.

As of early this week, no arrests have been made in any of the incidents in Boulder, Morrison and Colorado Springs. The incidents have included synagogues and private businesses.

Sometime early last week – in what might have been two separate incidents — vandals spray-painted swastikas and other hate symbols, along with the word “Jew,” on a signpost and electrical box at B’nai Chaim, the Reform congregation in Morrison.

“Never expected anything like this,” synagogue spokesperson Robbe Sokolove told KCNC-TV news last week. “The swastika is a painful reminder that six million Jews were exterminated by Hitler during WW II.”

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department said it was investigating the incident and was keeping a close watch at B’nai Chaim. As of last week, the department had made no arrests and named no suspects. The synagogue announced that it was installing security cameras last week.

Also last week, vandals on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall used a grease-pen or crayon to scrawl swastikas on the windows of three storefronts: Lindsay’s Boulder Deli, Haagen-Dazs and Installation.

Employees of the businesses told the Boulder Daily Camera that they believe the defacements were made late Monday or early Tuesday, Jan. 7-8.

As of last week, no arrests had been made in connection with the Boulder incidents.

Last week’s swastikas followed yet another such incident last month in Colorado Springs.

In December, during the observance of Chanukah, vandals spray-painted swastikas on a large menorah erected at the corner of Rockrimmon and Allegheny, outside the Chabad Jewish Center.

No arrests have been made in that case either.

That congregation’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Moshe Liberow, in comments made to Colorado Springs-based KKTV, called the vandalism “very disturbing.”

“This is a very despicable, horrifying act and this is unacceptable to say the least,” Rabbi Liberow said.

Scott Levin, director of the ADL’s Mountain States Region, issued a statement last week, saying, “The Anti-Defamation League condemns all vandalism, and in particular the use of swastikas.”

The statement, referring specifically to the Boulder vandalism, went on: “The use of swastikas sends a strong message of hate and goes against the spirit of inclusivity and respect valued by the overwhelming majority of Boulder residents.”

AFTER a period in which few such incidents were reported in Colorado, Levin said that there does appear to be a “rash” of similar vandalism over the past year.

Earlier last year, swastikas were drawn at another Colorado Springs synagogue, Temple Beit Torah, on an Obama campaign office in Conifer and on a bus belonging to Grant Farms in northern Colorado.

Asked by the Intermountain Jewish News last whether the ADL believes these and the three more recent incidents might be related to one another, Levin indicated that he doubts it.

“To our knowledge there is no indication from law enforcement or otherwise that they are related to each other,” Levin said.

That does not mean, he added, that anti-Semitism was not a motivating factor in at least two of the incidents.

Although one of the three targeted businesses in Boulder is apparently Jewish-owned, Levin said it does not appear that “she was targeted because she is Jewish.”

The fact that two of the targeted stores in Boulder are not owned by Jews, and that none of them deal in specifically Jewish merchandise, suggests that the Boulder incidents may not have been bias-motivated, Levin said.

“But when someone puts a swastika on a synagogue they clearly know what they are doing.”

That standard applies to both the B’nai Chaim and Chabad Jewish Center incidents.

Levin indicated, however, that at present there is no reason for regional Jews to be concerned that the swastikas might be precursors to more serious crimes against Jews or Jewish institutions in the area.

“It’s always hard to predict what’s going to happen, especially since to our knowledge it’s not part of any large organized effort. These are in disparate locations so it’s likely not the same individual or individuals involved in it.

“But we have to remain vigilant and observant and stand up against these kinds of things.”

Although he said he cannot rule out the possibility, Levin said he is doubtful that the swastika vandalism is the work of any organized anti-Semitic or hate group.

“My gut feeling is that in a situation such as what happened in Boulder the swastika has been adopted as a symbol of hate that goes beyond just the implications of the Nazis and what happened to the Jews.”

He suspects “an anti-social degenerate creep who likes to get a rise out of the grownups and cause a lot of angst and anxiety.”

IF that is the case, the long-term effect of the vandalism might be the opposite of what the perpetrator or perpetrators intended.

“One of the nice byproducts of what I think is a horrible situation is that by shining a light on each of these incidents it has allowed the entire community to come together and support the people who have been the targets of hate,” Levin told the IJN last week.

“These are message-oriented crimes and when they’re placed on a Jewish institution or synagogue they’re sending a message that you do not belong here in the community.

“In each of these instance, the neighbors — primarily Gentiles — have stood up and said it’s wrong and said to the Jewish community that they know it’s wrong.”

Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News

 

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