Vandalism at 3 New England synagogues aims to intimidate community, ADL regional leader says

Recent vandalism targeting three New England synagogues is aimed at intimidating the Jewish community, the director of the New England office of the Anti-Defamation League said.

Robert Trestan said the attacks at two synagogues in the Boston area and one in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, are part of a spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the region since the start of the year.

Trestan said there is no indication the recent incidents are related, but the short time frame and proximity stand out.

“To have three synagogues targeted in a week within 100 miles of each other, that’s a real concern,” Trestan told JTA. “People are intentionally going onto a property of worship to intimidate the community.”

He said the uptick in reported anti-Semitic incidents since the beginning of 2016 — particularly in schools, but also in the community — runs from harassment to graffiti.

“The incidents already reported to us this year exceed all of 2015, with school-based incidents experiencing the largest increase,” according to a spokesperson at the New England office.

The office could not disclose the exact numbers, but the figures will be part of a forthcoming report from the national ADL.

On May 22, a large swastika was discovered painted across the sign at Temple Ohawe Sholam, an Orthodox synagogue and the only one in Pawtucket, which borders Providence.

On the same day in Beverly, Massachusetts, the words “Merry Christmas” and a large dollar sign were discovered painted on the back walls of Temple B’nai Abraham, the only synagogue in the seaside town on the North Shore of Boston. The area includes towns with many Jewish institutions and synagogues.

On May 15, a swastika was discovered painted on the parking lot of Temple Emanuel in Andover, the largest Reform congregation in the city north of Boston.

“These are acts to intimidate Jews at sacred spaces,” Trestan said. “What’s next, if people are willing to spray paint at a house of worship, how far are they willing to go to spread a message?”

The incidents should not be dismissed because the weapon of choice was a can of spray paint, Trestan cautioned.

“The message of intimidation and hate is very strong,” he said.

In Pawtucket, the incident is being investigated as a hate crime. There was no surveillance video in the immediate vicinity and no arrests have been made, according to police.

At a news conference outside Temple Ohawe Sholam the morning after the grafitti was discovered, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebian condemned the anti-Semitic vandalism.

“This was clearly a heinous act that will not be tolerated,” Grebian said, adding: “We are treating this as a hate crime and will be very aggressive.”

At the news conference, Grebian and the police chief joined the synagogue’s rabbi and president, as well as others from the Rhode Island Jewish community and clergy from other religious groups.

“While these acts may have brought back the horror millions of people experienced, the immediate result has been an outpouring of compassion and many acts of kindness from the community,” synagogue president David Pliskin said.

The incident jarred synagogue members, including Irving Schild, a Holocaust survivor and one of the first to discover the swastika.

“It’s a shame,” Schild told the Providence Journal. “It’s been 70 years since the end of the Holocaust and it seems that no one has really learned anything from it. It looks like it’s starting all over again.

Within hours of discovering the swastika, drivers passing by were stopping to voice concern and support, according to Marty Cooper, community relations director of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. One Muslim woman offered to pay for replacing the sign, Cooper told JTA. He cited the support of the state’s 7-year-old interfaith organization and other religious organizations.

The Jewish Alliance is now exploring ways to provide security cameras to synagogues.

“Lots of shuls can’t afford the cameras. It’s a problem,” Cooper acknowledged.

Temple B’nai Abraham will hold a community forum on anti-Semitism on June 2 led by Trestan. Rabbi Alison Adler described the symbols painted on her synagogue as “stupid” rather than “vile.”

“But we are not painting over reactions or concerns,” she said in a statement.

Beverly Mayor Michael Cahill called for unity in standing against the hateful acts at the synagogue, saying in a statement “these criminal actions have no place in our society and no place in Beverly. We are all one.”

In another incident, on May 24, a swastika was found painted on the parking lot at a large stadium in Cranston, Rhode Island, 10 miles south of Pawtucket.

Swastikas drawn in University of Missouri dorm

Swastikas and anti-Semitic epithets were written in a stairwell of a dormitory at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

The two incidents occurred on the morning of April 9 and the evening of April 10. No suspects have been identified.

The writing was done in ash, such as from the end of a cigarette or a cigar, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported. The vandalism has been removed.

Neither the university nor police have released the contents of the epithets. University of Missouri police are investigating the incidents.

Chantelle Moghadam, co-founder of Students Supporting Israel, a new campus student organization, said in a statement that the graffiti included “a swastika, a symbol representing the ‘Illuminati,’ and the words ‘Heil’ and ‘You’ve been warned.’

“Our group wants to continue to bring awareness to campus about the fact that anti-Semitism still exists here,” Moghadam said.

She said the graffiti did not just target Jews.

“This goes to show that maybe we’re not as progressive and inclusive as we think we are as a campus,” she said.

Thalia Sass, president of the Jewish Student Organization, told the student newspaper, The Maneater, that it was difficult to be Jewish on campus during such incidents.

“I’m so proud to flaunt my Jewish identity, but when incidents like this happen, it’s scary,” said Sass, a junior. “This person doesn’t know me, but they hate me just because of the single aspect that I’m Jewish.”

Jewish cemetery in northern Hungary vandalized

Gravestones were vandalized in a Jewish cemetery in northern Hungary.

Up to 20 gravestones, including two crypts, were vandalized over the weekend in Gyongyos, the MTI-Hungarian News Agency Corp. reported Sunday, citing Peter Weisz, the leader of the local Jewish community. Tombstones were toppled and smashed, and human remains were removed from the crypts, according to reports.

The fence around the cemetery also was vandalized, Weisz told the Hungarian media.

On Sunday, one of the city’s deputy mayors visited the site and offered the city’s help to repair the damage, as did the Catholic Church, according to MTI.

The cemetery was similarly damaged in 2013.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary called the attack a “barbaric act.”

The Jewish community of Gyongyos is comprised of about 80 people in a total city population of about 30,000.

Large Jewish cemetery in Warsaw is vandalized

The fence of a Jewish cemetery in Warsaw considered to be one of the largest in Europe was defaced.

The attack on the Okopowa Street cemetery took place on Saturday; the vandalism was discovered the next day. Burials are still held in part of the cemetery.

“Jews for slaughter” and the date 10.12.14 were spray-painted in red on the fence. The date is when Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the ban on ritual slaughter was unconstitutional. Also, the cemetery gate was painted with yellow emulsion paint.

Cemetery director Przemyslaw Szpilman discovered the vandalism and immediately notified police. Szpilman said he does not know if the vandalism is an “immature prank or a political issue.”

“Such incidents do not happen very often,” he told JTA. “In 2013, someone painted a swastika on the wall of the cemetery, but for the last 12 years nothing like that has happened.”

Anna Chipczynska, president of the Jewish Community of Warsaw, said: “Less than a week after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we have to deal with the manifestation of hatred against Jews.  ‘Jews for slaughter’ is not only a humiliation that society cannot ignore, it is an invitation to violence and threats to which we should all be vigilant.”

Piotr Kadlcik, former president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, told JTA: “It is sad that the deceased perish for the decisions of the living.”

Spate of anti-Jewish, anti-Israel graffiti blankets Rome

Italian police are investigating a widespread spate of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel graffiti in Rome that local media speculate could be the joint work of left-wing and right-wing extremists.

Dozens of swastikas, slogans and posters were found spray-painted or plastered on walls and shop windows Monday in various parts of the city — as many as 70 or more in all.

They included slogans such as “Dirty Jews,” “Jews your end is near,” “Out with Zionists” and “Israel executioner.”

Some posters bore a swastika and the phrase “Anne Frank storyteller.” Other posters, apparently put up by a neo-fascist group, showed a Celtic cross and a Palestinian throwing a rock at an Israeli tank.

Jewish leaders, and local and state officials, strongly condemned the vandalism.

Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino called the affair shameful and “an insult to all Romans.” He expressed solidarity with the Jewish community, saying “Rome wants and must be the capital of dialogue and peace, and not the terrain of barbarism.” Interior Minister Angelino Alfano promised “maximum” efforts by law enforcement to identify the culprits and curb further outbreaks.

Synagogue, cars in North Miami vandalized with ‘Hamas’

A synagogue in North Miami Beach was vandalized with spray painted swastikas and the word “Hamas.”

The attack on Congregation Torah V’Emunah reportedly came early Monday morning, according to local reports.

The epithets were discovered slightly more than a day after cars owned by a Jewish family in Miami Beach were egged and smeared with cream cheese while the family attended Shabbat services at their local synagogue.

The vandals wrote “Jew” and “Hamas” on the back of the cars, parked in front of their home in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Miami Beach, according to the local CBS affiliate.

The family whose cars were attacked immigrated to the United States from Iran 25 years ago.

“Everyone was shocked,” said daughter Rachel Shakib.  “No one knew what was going on, we’re like this is America, this is Miami. Why would we be targeted here? We’re supposed to be safe, free from anti-Semitism.

Belfast synagogue vandalized on back-to-back days

A window was smashed on successive days at a synagogue in Belfast, Ireland.

The vandalism at the Belfast Hebrew Congregation took place on Friday night and the following day, the BBC reported. In the latter incident, the replacement window was shattered.

Police are treating the vandalism as a religious hate crime.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said it was “totally unacceptable” for places of worship to be targeted, the BBC reported.

Gerry Kelly, a member of the legislative assembly, condemned the attack.

“There can be no place for attacks on any place of worship, regardless of the religion or denomination,” Kelly said, according to Belfast’s News Letter. “The local Jewish community makes a valuable contribution to our society and there is no justification for hate crimes.”

It was not clear whether the attack was related to Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip.

Jerusalem-area monastery damaged in ‘price tag’ attack

A monastery near Jerusalem was vandalized in an attack that police believe is the work of right-wing extremists.

A firebomb thrown at the Beit Gemal Monastery caused minor damage, according to police. The words “price tag” also were spray-painted on the wall of the monastery.

The damage was discovered Wednesday morning.  The police unit for nationalist crimes is investigating.

Price tag refers to the strategy that extremist settlers and their supporters have adopted to exact retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or Palestinian attacks on Jews. Several price tag attacks in recent months also have targeted Christian sites, however.

Philanthropist donates $250,000 to Mount Zion cemetery repair

Shlomo Rechnitz, a Los Angeles businessman and philanthropist, has donated $250,000 to restore the badly vandalized Mount Zion Cemetery in East Los Angeles. In addition, two other donors, real estate developer Izek Shomof and businessman Adi McAbian, each donated $25,000, and another real estate developer, Michael Fallas, gave $10,000, making possible some major initial repairs to the site, which has been damaged by intruders in recent years, including knocking over gravestones. The century-old cemetery is the gravesite for about 7,000 Jews.

Following these gifts and a site visit on May 30 by key community leaders, the first stage of the crumbling cemetery’s restoration is expected to begin in June.

Articles in the Jewish Journal and Los Angeles Times have raised awareness about the issue in recent weeks. Rabbi Moshe Greenwald, co-director of Chabad of Downtown Los Angeles, is leading the effort to restore the cemetery. 

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles assumed responsibility for Mount Zion Cemetery in 1969 after its original owner, Chevra Chesed Shel Emeth, was no longer able to maintain it. In the past decade, Federation has provided annual support of about $25,000.

Rechnitz also made news in recent weeks when he purchased the beleaguered Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat Market after it was shuttered following a scandal about its former owner’s mishandling of kosher meats. Rechnitz visited Mount Zion Cemetery in late May for the first time after hearing from a concerned community member about the situation there. Rechnitz’s grandfather, Henry Rechnitz, is buried in the adjacent Agudas Achim Cemetery, just a few feet from Mount Zion. Rechnitz told the Journal that after viewing some of the destruction at the cemetery, he told Greenwald that he could not see any more and that he was ready to help.

“The situation there is nothing short of deplorable,” Rechnitz said in an interview. “We live in a city that features and showcases so many beautiful, lavish, prestigious homes, and when it comes to our dead we are centuries behind Europe.” He was referring to extensive efforts in Europe to restore and maintain Jewish cemeteries, many of which were desecrated during the Holocaust.

The damage at Mount Zion is so severe, Rechnitz said, that he took pictures to show to others whom he thinks may not believe that this could happen in a city like Los Angeles.

“When I looked at headstones being smashed and graffiti and bullet holes, and a lot of spaces where you could literally see into the grave, it was scary.”

On May 30, a group of rabbis and other Jewish community leaders visited the cemetery, marking a significant turning point in the restoration effort. Among those present were Jay Sanderson, president and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Rabbi Elazar Muskin of Young Israel of Century City; Rabbi Kalman Topp of Beth Jacob Synagogue; Rabbi Boruch Sufrin of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy; David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media Corp., parent company of the Jewish Journal; Rabbi Greenwald and others.

In early May, Sanderson and Federation Chief Operating and Financial Officer Ivan Wolkind said that Federation — which is the custodian of the property but does not own it — expressed concern that repair work should not start before enough money is raised to support the full restoration, out of concern that it might not be completed.  

Greenwald wants repair to begin immediately on the hundreds of damaged headstones, graves and ledgers, and to proceed as more donations come in — row by row, section by section. This, he told the group of visitors, is what consulted contractors recommended.

“All the monument companies said that they would have to do it area by area,” Greenwald told the group. “No one can put yellow tape around the entire cemetery and say, ‘OK — construction site.’ ”

Although there is still no agreement on when repairing the graves and headstones should begin, Greenwald and Sanderson both agree that the first work to be done will be to repair and secure the site’s perimeter fencing. That work, they hope, can begin in the coming weeks.

Currently, the fence surrounding the seven-acre cemetery is not high enough in some places to keep out intruders; in other areas, it is missing barbed wire,or, worst of all, is pierced with large holes. Greenwald expects the fence repair to cost anywhere from $40,000 to $50,000.

Local rabbis in attendance on May 30 all agreed that securing the perimeter is the most urgent priority, and that with $300,000 in the bank, work on this should begin as soon as possible. 

Rabbi Topp of Beth Jacob weighed in during the meeting, saying that the effort to protect the dignity of those resting at Mount Zion is a chesed shel emet, a true act of kindness, because those receiving the kindness cannot possibly return the favor. “Giving dignity to the deceased,” Topp said, “is something of the highest priority.”  

The sense of unity generated on May 30 and the monetary commitment by major figures to get the repair work started is, in all likelihood, largely the result of Rechnitz’s donation to Friends of Mount Zion Cemetery, the group led by Greenwald that is organizing the effort. 

Rechnitz’s gift, Sanderson told the Journal, “is potentially a game changer.” A condition of the $250,000 donation is that repair work begin immediately, Rechnitz said. 

In the past, Sanderson said during a recent interview, efforts to restore the cemetery have briefly popped up in the community, only to fizzle shortly thereafter. 

But with Rechnitz throwing his support behind the effort, and with momentum building among religious and lay leaders to secure the perimeter, maybe this time will be different. 

“It’s a great first step and it’s a first step that hasn’t been taken since we got into this situation,” Sanderson said. 

“It’s no longer just an idea,” Greenwald said.

For at least the past 10 years, Federation has given Home of Peace — a cemetery adjacent to Mount Zion — about $1,000 per month to perform routine maintenance on the cemetery, which opened in 1916. According to Wolkind, Federation spends approximately an additional $13,000 per year on other various projects for the cemetery. 

In an e-mail to the Journal on May 31, Sanderson wrote that Federation is committed to continuing its $25,000 annual allocation to Mount Zion. That amount, though, is not nearly enough to restore or, in the long term, maintain the cemetery, according to projections by Friends of Mount Zion Cemetery. Additional funds will have to come from other sources.

“Hopefully, other people in Los Angeles will get wind of the situation and will feel a responsibility as well,” Rechnitz said. “Now that people do know about it and as it gains publicity, I have full trust in the Jews of Los Angeles that they are all going to want to take part in fixing this problem.”

Based on estimates from several contractors, Greenwald thinks that a five-phase restoration of the cemetery will require about $675,000 and work on the site would take until at least the end of 2015. Maintaining the cemetery once it is restored will cost between $30,000 to $40,000 per year, he said. 

With Rechnitz’s donation and Federation’s existing annual commitment to the cemetery, Mount Zion’s 2015 target completion date appears possible.

Over the next few weeks, Greenwald, Federation and the rabbis who were at the May 30 meeting said they plan to meet with other local Jewish groups, including other Jewish cemeteries and synagogues, to try to raise awareness and funds for the restoration project.

“It’s a community dilemma and it should be a community solution,” Greenwald said. 

To donate to Friends of Mount Zion Cemetery, send checks, payable to “Friends of Mount Zion Cemetery,” to 219 W Seventh St., Suite 206, Los Angeles, CA 90014.

Stars of David ripped from Jewish tombstones in Milan

More than a dozen tombstones at the Jewish section of Milan's main cemetery were vandalized.

Vandals over the weekend tore off Stars of David decorating some 13 tombstones. Police in the northern Italian city are investigating.

The Milan Jewish community spokesman said it was too soon to tell whether anti-Semitism or “simple theft” was behind the vandalism. Thieves are known to steal metal decorative elements from cemeteries to melt down or sell as scrap.

Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia said he “forcefully condemned” the vandalism.

“For my part, I express solidarity to the families and to the entire Jewish community,” he said in a statement. “Every act of violence, every act of lack of respect, toward whatever religion or community, is a stain that must find the unanimous condemnation of the entire city.”

New Zealand Jewish grave vandal avoids prison

A New Zealand man who admitted to desecrating Jewish graves with anti-Semitic graffiti at a historic cemetery in Auckland avoided prison.

Robert Moulden, 19, was sentenced by Judge Russell Collins in Auckland District Court Wednesday to 320 hours of community service work. He was also ordered to pay about $2,500 in reparations.

Moulden pleaded guilty to a charge of willful damage in November. Another man, also accused of desecrating the cemetery, is fighting the charges.

During the sentencing, the judge said the community work should include work with Auckland Council's graffiti team.

More than a dozen headstones in the Jewish quarter of the Symonds St Cemetery were vandalized with swastikas, the numbers 88 – code for “Heil Hitler,”  and anti-Israeli slogans on Oct. 19.

The Jewish community offered restorative justice with Moulden. One family invited him for Shabbat dinner, and others offered financial assistance with his education.

“To your credit, you were willing to engage with the Jewish community and a more extraordinary outcome is the forgiving nature of the members of the Jewish community,” Judge Collins said.

“Their forgiveness of you needs to be admired considering how wounding and distressing your actions were.”

Auckland Council has spent about $10,000 on trying to repair the vandalism, but some of the vandalism is irreparable, according to local media, with the damage estimated to cost some $23,000.

Long Beach synagogue vandalized

Long Beach police are searching for a male suspect who threw a brick at the window of Temple Israel of Long Beach on Jan. 7. This was the second incident of vandalism at the Reform congregation, located at 269 Loma Ave., since the building reopened in October following a major renovation project.

“The reaction by staff was concern, frustration, that we had just moved back into a new building and this is the second incident of vandalism,” said Eric Shatzkin, executive director at Temple Israel. Shatzkin discovered the damage to the window while setting up for a staff meeting on the morning of Jan. 8.

Long Beach police have described the suspect as a “white male or Hispanic”; 20 to 30 years old; 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall; wearing light-color cargo or basketball shorts; a long-sleeved, light-color jacket with a dark collar; a white T-shirt and dark-color sandals or shower shoes. The incident took place at approximately 11:30 p.m., police said.

Footage caught by the synagogue’s surveillance video shows the perpetrator approaching the synagogue from the street, throwing an object at the building, then running back toward the street. Long Beach police posted the video on their YouTube channel on Jan. 17.

The brick hit the eastern wall — the synagogue’s front entrance — causing a spider-web break to a first-floor, double-pane window that has an additional anti-graffiti protective film, Shatzkin said. The brick did not make it through the glass to the interior.

An alarm did not go off since there was not any damage to the interior, he said.

In November, another act of vandalism involved anti-Semitic graffiti—a swastika painted on Temple Israel’s exterior—and was not caught on video.

In addition to notifying police about this latest incident, the congregation contacted the Anti-Defamation League of Orange County/Long Beach and sent out an email update to its congregants.

Shatzkin believes that the two incidents could be the work of the same vandal.

“[We’re] hoping this doesn’t become an ongoing concern,” he said. “Hopefully it’s one perpetrator that they are able to catch now that they have one video.”

Anyone with information is urged to call Long Beach Police Department Detective Jackie Bezart at (562) 570-7250.

Watch Temple Israel's Jan. 7 surveillance video below:

Security guard arrested for vandalizing Memphis yeshiva’s Torahs at hotel

A Memphis yeshiva’s Shabbat retreat was disrupted when a hotel security guard was arrested for vandalizing Torah scrolls and other property belonging to the school.

Justin Shawn Baker, 24, an Iraqi War veteran living in Jackson, Tenn., was arrested and charged with vandalism between $60 and $250,000 — a Class B felony. His bail was set Monday at $100,000. Baker is an armed guard working for the Maxxguard security firm.

On Saturday morning, local police and later federal law enforcement were called to the DoubleTree Motel in Jackson to investigate damaged Torah scrolls, siddurs and music equipment belonging to the Margolin Hebrew Academy's Cooper Yeshiva High School.

Approximately 50 high school students and faculty from the school were spending Shabbat at the motel on their way to a ski trip in the Smoky Mountains.

A MySpace profile page belonging to Baker and one belonging to a woman who identifies herself as Baker’s wife both make references to Satan, though neither page has been in use for at least three years.

Two Jewish cemeteries, municipal building vandalized in France

French police reportedly are investigating fresh acts of vandalism in two Jewish cemeteries and a municipal building.

On Monday in Paris, police arrested two men suspected of digging up two corpses at the Pantin cemetery, according to a statement from the municipality. They were found to be in possession of a number of human teeth and are suspected of being gravediggers, the statement read.

In Avignon near Marseille, two plaques on the Jewish cemetery’s wall were bludgeoned on Nov. 22, according to 20minutes, a French news site. The plaques had been repaired from being smashed on Oct. 8. One plaque read “Jewish cemetery” and the other had a Star of David.

Olivier Tainturier, director general of the local municipality of Vaucluse, said his office was “planning to install video surveillance.”

The previous evening, “pro-Palestinian, anti-Semitic texts against Israel and the police” were discovered on the municipal theater of Neuilly-sur-Seine, a western suburb of Paris, according to the French television channel BFM. The report did not say what was spray-painted.

Jean-Christophe Fromantin, a deputy mayor, filed a complaint with police and had the graffiti, which he called “odious,” removed by the end of the week. A practicing Catholic, Fromantin has declared that the “return of the Jewish people to Israel was a miracle.”

Also Monday, SPCJ, the security unit of France’s Jewish communities, praised French authorities’ handling of the prosecution of a university student studying Islamic studies who threatened to start “another Shoah” in an email to a Jewish professor.

On Nov. 15, a court in Aix-en-Provence handed the unnamed man a one-year suspended sentence plus two years of probation.

In an email sent March 19, the day that a Muslim extremist killed four Jews in Toulouse, the man wrote to a Jewish professor of Hebrew and Jewish studies at the University of Provence, “When will you stop making us swallow your tragicomedies, the latest this morning? I don’t like taking orders and even less so from a Jew. That's enough now or I will make another Shoah.”

Moshe Dayan’s gravesite vandalized on yahrtzheit

The grave of Moshe Dayan was vandalized on the anniversary of the former Israeli defense minister's death.

Graffiti reading “The minister of failure, on behalf of the fallen” was painted in red on Dayan's gravestone early Tuesday morning, 31 years since the date of his death.

A memorial service was held at the site in the military section of Nahalal cemetery in northern Israel on Oct. 14.

The Defense Ministry in a statement issued Tuesday “strongly” condemned the attack. The ministry said it sent members of its Unit for the Commemoration of the Soldier to repair the gravestone.

Dayan served as defense minister during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He also served as chief of staff for the Israel Defense Forces from 1953 to 1958.

Northridge mother pleads guilty in syrup swastika vandalism

A Northridge mother pleaded no contest Wednesday to a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for helping her teenage daughter and two friends deface homes with maple syrup swastikas, human feces and toilet paper, according to the L.A. city attorney’s office.

Catharine Whelpley was ordered to complete 80 hours of community service at Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles’ SOVA program and attend one year of parenting classes.

If Whelpley completes both within one year, her case will be reduced to an infraction.

“It is important that persons responsible for such conduct, including parents, have taken responsibility for their improper actions,” City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said. “Hopefully, these enforcement actions will deter others from engaging in such bad conduct.”

Whelpley had faced multiple criminal counts, including three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, two counts of vandalism, two counts of trespassing and two counts of tampering with a vehicle.

The charges stem from an April 3 incident in which Whelpley drove her 14-year-old daughter and her daughter’s two friends – ages 14 and 13 – to two homes in the San Fernando Valley that were defaced, prosecutors said.

At the first home, the residence of a former middle school friend, the teens allegedly defaced the property with toilet paper and maple syrup and smeared feces on the homeowner’s vehicle.

Whelpley then drove the juveniles to a store to purchase additional toilet paper before arriving at the second home, according to the city attorney’s office. Whelpley’s daughter allegedly wrote the word “Jew” and drew three swastikas on the front walkway of the home, which belongs to the son of a Holocaust survivor.

During today’s proceedings, the homeowner was allowed to read a statement that delved into his family’s experience with the Holocaust, Deputy City Attorney Ayelet Feiman said.

“I do believe it opened the defendant’s eyes to what her daughter actually did to his family,” she said.

Whelpley has attended a Museum of Tolerance program with her teenage daughter and wrote a letter of apology to the victims. In addition to the parenting classes and volunteering for SOVA, Whelpley has been ordered to pay a $200 fine and approximately $600 in additional penalties.

The three teenage girls did not face criminal charges because their actions did not cause permanent damage to the properties. However, the teens faced disciplinary action at their school for the defacing, which they admitted to doing, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Arrests made in Israeli Holocaust memorial vandalism

Israeli police said on Tuesday they had arrested three ultra-Orthodox Jews on suspicion of having spray-painted anti-Zionist slogans at the national Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial two weeks ago.

The men, aged 18, 26 and 27, belong to an ultra-Orthodox group opposed to Israel’s existence and admitted to the vandalism, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. They were due to be arraigned in court later in the day.

Some of the graffiti, all written in Hebrew, accused Israel’s founders of secretly encouraging the slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis during World War Two to hasten the creation, in 1948, of the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the slogans outrageous and said after the incident it was hard to believe “a human being could be capable of writing such things”.

Some ultra-Orthodox Jews regard modern-day Israel as an abomination, believing the establishment of a Jewish state must await the coming of the Messiah.

Yad Vashem, a museum and memorial, was established on a Jerusalem hilltop in 1953 and is often visited by foreign leaders who lay wreaths in its stark Hall of Remembrance.

Writing by Jeffrey Heller, editing by Diana Abdallah

Synagogue vandalized with Arabic sayings

A synagogue in central Israel was defaced with Arabic graffiti.

The vandalism was discovered June 22 on a synagogue in central Israel’s Moshav Maor.

The graffiti was from an Islamic prayer and read “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.”

It came days after a West Bank mosque near Ramallah was torched and graffiti protesting the upcoming evacuation of several apartment buildings in the Ulpana neighborhood of the West Bank settlement of Beit El was painted on its walls in what is being considered a price tag attack.

Hungarian police investigating desecration of Holocaust monument

A Holocaust memorial monument in the southwest of Hungary was desecrated.

The perpetrators broke off several parts of the bronze monument, which stands 3 1/2 feet high and is the shape of a large menorah. Hungarian police said they were investigating the incident.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary said the monument was desecrated sometime over last weekend. It stood in the courtyard of the buildings of the Jewish community of Nagykanizsa. The local Jewish community erected the monument, which is near the Croatia border, in 2004.

All seven menorah branches were sawed off and the main shaft was broken. Only part of the three-pronged base remains.

Some 120 Hungarians protested on June 7 in Budapest against anti-Semitism in Hungary. The demonstration was in reaction to an attack against a former chief rabbi. On June 3, a cemetery was desecrated near the capital.

In a letter to the country’s Jewish leaders, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressed his “indignation” at the cemetery attack and ordered the Interior Ministry to track down the perpetrators as soon as possible.

Palestinian cars vandalized in price tag attack

Seven cars were vandalized in a Palestinian neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem in what is being called a price tag attack.

The tires of the cars were slashed and the word “Ulpana” was spray-painted on one of them. The graffiti refers to the Ulpana neighborhood on the outskirts of the Beit El settlement, where five apartment buildings housing some 30 families are scheduled for evacuation by July 1.

“Price tag” refers to the strategy that extremist settlers have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians and Arabs in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions, or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.

On June 8, vandals damaged property and defaced Neve Shalom, a village near Jerusalem that has served for decades as a model for Jewish-Arab coexistence.

Graffiti saying “Death to Arabs” and “Revenge for Gilad Farm” and “Revenge for Ulpana” was on buildings in Neve Shalom, in the hills outside Jerusalem, and tires were slashed.

Northridge mother charged in syrup swastika vandalism

A Northridge woman has been charged with multiple criminal counts for helping her teenage daughter and two friends deface homes with maple syrup swastikas, human feces and toilet paper. Catharine Whelpley, 43, was charged on June 11 with three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, two counts of vandalism, two counts of trespassing and two counts of tampering with a vehicle.

Whelpley is accused of driving her 14-year-old daughter and her daughter’s two friends — 14 and 13 — to two homes in the San Fernando Valley. The girls have admitted to the April 3 defacing, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

At the first home, the residence of a former friend from their middle school, the teens defaced the property with toilet paper and maple syrup and smeared feces on the homeowner’s vehicle, according to statement from the office of L.A. City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich. According to the statement, Whelpley allegedly drove the girls to a store to purchase additional toilet paper between the two incidents. 

At the second home, which belongs to the son of a Holocaust survivor, the teens admitted to using maple syrup to draw three swastikas and to writing the word “Jew” on the front walkway.

The three girls will not face criminal charges because their actions did not cause permanent damage to the properties. However, the teens faced disciplinary action at their school.

If convicted on all charges, Whelpley could face up to seven years in county jail or a $13,500 fine, according to prosecutor Ayelet Feiman, who added that it is unlikely she will receive the maximum sentence.

Whelpley’s arraignment is scheduled for June 28.

Israeli flag vandalized at California university

An Israeli flag belonging to a Jewish student group was defaced with the word “terrorists” at the University of California, Riverside.

The word was scrawled in pencil near the center of the flag, which was displayed on a hallway bulletin board outside the campus Hillel office, the Los Angeles Times reported. Campus police are investigating the vandalism, which was discovered Tuesday.

“The defacement of any nation’s flag with pejorative characterizations of its people is an insult to every nation and its people,” the university’s chancellor, Timothy White, said in a statement. “Such behavior diminishes us all, and we have zero tolerance for it.”

The vandalism follows a campus appearance on March 1 by two Israeli soldiers that drew pro-Palestinian protesters. According to Riverside’s Press-Enterprise, protesters walked out of the event and interrupted the question-and-answer session. The soldiers had come to discuss their army experience.

The campus Hillel director, Adina Hemley, told The Press-Enterprise that it was “a bit of a strange coincidence” that the defacement was discovered days after the event.

Hadil Bashir, the president of the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, condemned the vandalism.

“I think the first thing that came to people’s minds was it’s SJP, due to the friction between Hillel,” she told The Press-Enterprise. “I just want to make it clear, we condemn the act, and we hope the perpetrators are found and are given their deserved punishment.”

Rabbi Michael Lerner’s home vandalized again

The northern California home of Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the progressive Tikkun magazine, was vandalized for the fourth time in the last year.

In an e-mail sent to Tikkun supporters, Lerner said that on Tuesday evening, two black-hooded men pasted signs on the outside of his house and garage saying that “Palestine is an Arab fantasy.” The statement was a reference to Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who called the Palestinians an “invented” people.

Earlier in the day, Lerner had appeared on a local National Public Radio affiliate to discuss his book “Embracing Israel/Palestine” and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“It seems obvious to me that the attack, while responding to the NPR interview with me this morning, is part of the same attempt to terrorize me and my family as the past three assaults,” Lerner wrote in his e-mail. “As the police made clear to us the last time, the goal is not to destroy property as much as to remind us that they know where we live, and that we are not safe.

“Needless to say, in a world where Israeli right-wingers this past week burned a mosque and assaulted an IDF (Israeli army) post for allegedly being too pro-Arab, there is no way to be sure that all these warning shots at me are only meant to scare and do not suggest that worse may be coming if my book gets more attention.”

Lerner said that he would not let the incident intimidate him.

Suspect in N.J. anti-Semitic vandalism reportedly is Jewish

A New Brunswick, N.J., man who was charged in the vandalism of several Jewish-owned shops in nearby Highland Park reportedly is Jewish.

Richard M. Green, 52, was charged with numerous counts of bias intimidation and criminal mischief for allegedly smashing the windows of five Jewish-owned businesses. The vandalism took place at the end of November and Green was arrested Nov. 30.

According to the New Jersey Jewish News, Green’s face was familiar to owners of Jewish establishments and institutions. Green also has been identified by authorities as the person who allegedly accosted a kipah-wearing Rutgers University student in a Dunkin Donuts on Nov. 30.

Andrew Getraer, the Rutgers Hillel’s executive director, said that Green was Jewish and “known to be mentally ill and has been treated for his mental illness,” the newspaper reported.

“We’ve met this individual,” Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, executive director of the Chabad House Lubavitch of Central and Southern New Jersey, told the New Jersey Jewish News. “We’ve had some recent experience with him. It’s really a very sad story of someone who appears to be mentally deranged. We communicated that to law enforcement. We left it to the police to do their work. We told anyone who called that we contacted law enforcement and have a handle on it.”

Israel arrests troops for anti-Palestinian vandalism

Three Israeli soldiers were arrested on Tuesday for suspected involvement in pro-settler vandalism and arson, the military said, following a series of attacks in the West Bank that have exacerbated tensions with Palestinians.

Mosques have been torched, graffiti daubed, and Palestinian trees chopped down in the “Price Tag” attacks, so called because they seek to make Palestinians pay for violence against Israelis and the Jewish state pay for its occasional curbs on settlement activity.

Fearing a flare-up in violence, Israel has ordered a police crackdown on the suspected far-right Jewish groups behind the attacks which have also targeted some of Israel’s West Bank garrisons, slashing vehicle tires and defacing property.

Channel Ten TV said the three soldiers were suspected of damaging both Palestinian and Israeli military property.

The arrests are a rare example of conscript troops’ involvement in the Price Tag campaign and a military spokeswoman declined to detail allegations against them, saying that an investigation was under way.

But she said they were taken into custody following the arrest by civilian police on Sunday of a woman and six girls, some of them settlers, for incidents including vandalism of Palestinian trees and army property.

Channel Ten TV said one of three lived in an unauthorized settler outpost, adding that one was also a combat soldier.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Ben Harding

Man arrested in vandalism of Jewish-owned shops in N.J.

A New Brunswick, N.J., man has been charged in the vandalism of several Jewish-owned shops in nearby Highland Park.

Richard M. Green has been charged with five counts of criminal mischief in the smashing the windows of five Jewish-owned businesses. Green, 52, was arrested on Wednesday.

Windows were smashed Tuesday night at five stores owned by Jewish merchants, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. The targeted businesses included kosher restaurants, Judaica shops and a hardware store.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office is seeking to determine if Green is responsible for an incident in New Brunswick in which a brick was thrown through the window of the Rutgers University Hillel over the weekend.

Kosovo Jewish cemetery desecrated

Kosovo authorities are investigating the desecration Tuesday of a local Jewish cemetery. Swastikas and anti-Jewish slogans were sprayed on tombstones of this old cemetery which was restored less than six months ago.

Rabbi Yoel Kaplan, Chief Rabbi of Albania and Chabad representative to the region who was designated to oversee the cemetery by the Government of Kosovo, was contacted by the Prime Minister’s office, which condemned the vandalism.

“They reassured me that the authorities are working vigorously to find the perpetrators,” Kaplan told in a phone interview from Israel.

There are about 70 Jewish graves in the cemetery, which lay in disrepair for years. “It was used a soccer field, and the graves were used as goalies,” said Rabbi Kaplan.

After the renovation in June by a group of American and Kosovan students, Kaplan learned that certain groups objected to the government for its help in restoring the cemetery. Kaplan says he suspects that the complaints came from neighboring Serbia.

“As Jewish life in the Balkans experiences a renewal, we’re seeing resentment and opposition by certain organizations and groups who seem not to tolerate the Jewish revival this region is experiencing,” Kaplan said.

Rabbi Kaplan made a recommendation to Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, as a cautionary measure, that security cameras be installed on the cemetery grounds.

The Prime Minister did not see reason for any real worry, said Kaplan. “We were rather optimistic. The fact is that when people in Kosovo see me—a conspicuously religious Jew—they approach with warmth and blessing. They want to learn about Judaism, and are so happy to see Jews return to this area,” said Kaplan.

President Atifete Jahjaga condemned the act. “The damaging of cemeteries presents an act in complete contradiction with the traditions and values of the people of Kosovo, based on tolerance and full respect for all the dead and all the monuments,” Jahjaga said in a statement.

Kosovo, which is largely Muslim, has a tiny population of 50 Jews. The former Serbian province declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.

Peace Now activist’s home vandalized again

Threatening graffiti was spray painted on the home of a Peace Now activist, one day after the group’s offices were evacuated due to a bomb threat.

Monday night’s attack is the second time in recent weeks that the home of Hagit Ofran, the director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project, has been targeted.

The threatening graffiti included swastikas and the words “Rabin is waiting for you,” referring to the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Other epithets referred to the recent razing of structures in two West Bank outposts.

“They are trying to scare us, but it will not work,” Ofran told the Israeli daily Haaretz Tuesday. “The discourse in Israel has become truly dangerous. We are having an argument about the future and this discourse has crossed red lines.”

On Sunday evening, police evacuated the two-story building housing the Jerusalem offices of Peace Now after a man speaking into the building’s intercom system reportedly said that the building would soon blow up.

The words “price tag” were discovered spray-painted on the side of the building the same evening. A Star of David had been spray-painted on the building a few days ago.

Price tag refers to the strategy that extremist settlers have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians and Arabs in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.

Religious zealots attack “immodest” Jerusalem shops

A sign at the ice cream parlor may caution men and women not to lick cones in public, but the warning didn’t stop Jewish zealots vandalizing the shop in Jerusalem’s main ultra-Orthodox neighborhood.

Other businesses in Mea Shearim, including a book store and dress shops, have been damaged in night-time attacks by Sikrikim, a group of some 100 ultra-religious men who want one of the holy city’s most tradition-bound quarters to become even more conservative.

“Promiscuity” reads graffiti scrawled in black at the entrance of a clothing shop selling dresses whose lengthy hemline and drab colors have been deemed too racy by the group.

Other stores in the neighborhood, where men wear traditional black garb and women bare little but their face, have had their windows broken, locks glued and foul-smelling liquid smeared on walls.

“They also threw once a bag of excrement inside and smashed our windows three times,” said Marlene Samuels, manager of the Or Hachaim bookshop, whose bright lights and large storefront sign stand out among smaller and more dimly lit businesses.

The shop has been attacked more than 10 times since it opened a year and a half ago, Samuels said. The latest assault was last week when one of the store’s branches had its locks glued overnight.

Samuels said the shop’s owner met with the Sikrikim several times. The store stocks only religious books, but they include volumes published by Orthodox institutions that are Zionist—anathema to the Sikrikim, who believe a Jewish state can be established only with the coming of the Messiah.

Named after a small Jewish group which 2,000 years ago fought against Roman rulers and suspected Jewish collaborators, the modern-day Sikrikim strike at night and some wear masks to hide their identities.

“They use aggressive tactics and they also ask for protection money which involves paying (a religious inspector) coming in and removing the books he deems unfit,” Samuels said.

Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem councilman from the secular Israeli Meretz party, voiced concern that the existence of the Sikrikim, although a tiny minority, signified a growing divide among Jews in Israel.

“Society is becoming increasingly extremist. With the Sikrikim particularly, who are religiously motivated and rule out any position but their own, one cannot reckon, only fight them,” Margalit said.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up about 8 percent of Israel’s 7.7 million population. With an average of eight children per family, they are a fast-growing population. Many live below the poverty line and keep to dozens of their own towns and neighborhoods.

Mea Shearim area is small, less than half a square mile (1.3 square km), and home to about 30,000 residents considered among the most tight-knit and reclusive of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jews.

It takes about a minute to walk from Jerusalem’s city center to Mea Shearim, but the dozens of synagogues and Hassidic courts dotting its narrow alleyways are a world away from the cafes and bars of downtown Jerusalem.

Sikrikim attacks have also been reported at Beit Shemesh, a mixed secular and religious town with a growing ultra-Orthodox community, about half an hour’s drive from Jerusalem. The latest target there has been a religious girls’ school.

The Sikrikim who reside near the school object to the way the girls dress. Since the school year began in September they have regularly picketed outside shouting out at the students, most of them younger than 12, that they are promiscuous.

“They claim to be religious but what they do is a crime against God, against the Torah and against humanity,” said David Rotenberg, who works at Or Hachaim.


Up the road, the Zisalek ice cream parlor has separate entrances for men and women and a sign—posted at the request of local religious authorities—asking them to avoid any show of immodesty by licking cones in public.

“They (the Sikrikim) had a real ball with us,” said Guy Ammar, one of Zisalek’s owners, describing vandalism similar to attacks against other shops in the area.

“But we were not deterred. Residents here told us not to give up and business is going well now.”

Sikrikim shun the media and have made no public comment about their activities.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said an investigation was under way following two complaints lodged by Or Hachaim Center but no suspects have yet been arrested.

Some business owners in Mea Shearim said police has been slow to act, reluctant to get involved in what they see as internal disputes among different religious sects of a closed community.

Rosenfeld said that no other businesses have filed formal complaints in recent weeks.

A few minutes walk from Zisalek Ice Cream is the Greentech music shop, where Hassidic music plays in the background and one DVD in a collection of ultra-Orthodox movies is a suspense film about the battles of a rabbi against Christian missionaries.

The Sikrikim “do not like anything that changes the character of the shtetl and the way it was a hundred years ago,” a worker in the music store said, using a Yiddish term for the small towns where Eastern European Jews lived before the Holocaust.

Shlomo Kuk, an ultra-Orthodox journalist from Jerusalem, said the Sikrikim shouldn’t be seen as representative of devout Jews known as “haredim.”

“One thing is certain: they may dress like haredim but what they do is utter sacrilege which blackens the name of the entire haredi community,” Kuk said.

Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Sonya Hepinstall

Vandalism on Safed synagogues being probed as retaliation for mosque arson

Police are investigating vandalism on four synagogues in Safed as possible retaliation for a mosque arson in northern Israel.

The words “Death to Jews” were spray-painted on the synagogues and a car Tuesday night in the northern Israeli city.

The mosque arson took place on Oct. 2 in the Bedouin Arab town of Tuba Zanghariya. Two Arab cemeteries in Jaffa also were vandalized last week.

“This is an unusual phenomenon, which does not characterize the nature of the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Safed,” the city’s mayor, Ilan Shohat, told Haaretz. “Just as we condemn the desecration of Islamic holy sites, so we condemn despicable acts like this.”

Two suspects, men with ties to the West Bank, have been arrested in the mosque arson. The attack is being called a “price tag” attack, in which extremist settlers exact a price in attacks on Palestinians in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.

The mosque attack referenced the death of a West Bank resident who was killed in a rock attack on his car.