A father and his son visiting Warwick skate park Monday afternoon made the disturbing discovery of anti-Semitic graffiti, including swastikas, Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard said.
“It’s a horrible thing,” he said. “Any type of anti-Semitic or racist graffiti is a terrible thing. We acted immediately to remove it, but, nonetheless, it was done.”
With police still investigating, the mayor said it was important to identify the perpetrator and use the incident as an opportunity for education.
“They have to understand what their words mean and the significance and the hurt of those words,” Newhard said. “There’s something that can come out of this that is positive and that is stronger for us as a community.”
The skate park is equipped with surveillance cameras, Newhard said, which police are using in their investigation.
Despite multiple attempts, Village of Warwick police could not be reached for comment.
A similar incident occurred two years ago in the Village of Florida, where anti-Semitic graffiti was spray painted on the walls around Temple Beth Shalom’s cemetery.
“That was a terrible incident because it was in a cemetery, which is sacred ground,” Newhard said. “But what came out of it was community and the perpetrators were found.”
Rabbi Rachel Rubenstein, executive director of The Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County, said that the recent incident was incredibly sad for the community.
“(It’s) very sad for the young child and his father, who had to witness it firsthand,” she said. “We’re very grateful to the police department and the mayor who quickly responded and cleaned up the graffiti and are committed to bringing healing and justice to the community.”
Echoing Newhard, Rubenstein said her organization believes in the importance of education and presents programs to school groups about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
“The kids are incredibly responsive, especially when we bring Holocaust survivors and World War II liberators directly to the students,” she said. “They’re incredibly moved. We try and teach that history is made up of choices that individuals make and that the students that we’re talking to also have these choices every day to make.”
When asked why anti-Semitism seems to be rising across the country, Rubenstein said she thinks the combination of Internet extremism and political turbulence have created the perfect storm for intolerance.
“Generally, throughout history, that tends to also accompany an uptick in anti-Semitism,” she said. “People are looking for a scapegoat, they’re looking for an easy target, and, unfortunately, that often is the Jewish community, along with other minority groups.”
Newhard said anti-Semitism is unfortunately not a new phenomenon.
“When we have it in our communities, it’s very sad,” he said. “When something like this happens, it definitely brings home that there’s work to be done.”
Warwick skate park is located within Veterans Memorial Park, off Memorial Park Drive in the Village of Warwick.
We try and teach that history is made up of choices that individuals make and that the students that we’re talking to also have these choices every day to make.”
- Rabbi Rachel Rubenstein, executive director of The Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County