Anti-Semitic graffiti found in Warwick skate park

Warwick. As police investigate an incident of anti-Semitic graffiti at Warwick skate park, Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard and Rabbi Rachel Rubenstein stress the importance of education.

06 Feb 2020 | 11:04

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.

Statement from Rabbi Pesach and Chana Burston from Chabad of Orange County regarding anti-Semitic graffiti found at Warwick skate park:
"On behalf of the Jewish community and the greater Orange County community, we want to express our deepest disappointment regarding yesterday's incident of anti-Semitic graffiti at the Warwick skate park.
A skate park, like all public parks, is a place to promote community unity, form friendships and create memories. There is no room for symbols of hatred at a place like this, or anywhere in Orange County. It is the responsibility of every Orange County community member to help educate our youth to make them aware of the dangers and effects of anti-Semitism historically and presently. We also need to infuse a love for our county and the environment, emphasizing that public property must be respected and honored.
We are here to discuss community concerns and ideas for the future of our county, to keep it a safe and thriving community, in which respect and unity for one another is our goal."
Rabbi Pesach and Chana Burston co-direct Chabad of Orange County, NY and can be reached at 845-782-2770 or rabbi@chabadorange.com or online at www.ChabadOrange.com.
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