Days before Thanksgiving, the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC) became the latest victim of hate. Racist graffiti, sprayed in blue paint, was seen scattered across the organization’s property. This time around, swastikas were drawn.
“The Glen Cove Police Department notified us of a second incident of graffiti on our doorstep, this time including swastikas,” the HMTC said in a statement. “We are shocked and saddened about the appearance of this representation of Nazi ideology. We are now coordinating with the Glen Cove police and Nassau County officials about how to respond. In the meantime, we commit ourselves to continuing to educate young people and adults about the Holocaust and these offensive and hurtful symbols of hate.”
The Garden City Clergy Fellowship released the following statement of solidarity, signed by more than a dozen religious leaders in the community:
“As the religious leaders of the Village of Garden City, we are affronted and deeply saddened by the recent acts of anti-Semitic vandalism perpetrated upon the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove. Anti-Semitism is vile and intolerable in all forms and circumstances, as are manifestations of bigotry of any kind. The fact that these particular incidents occurred at a center dedicated to the teaching of tolerance makes them that much more brazen and outrageous. We stand in solidarity with our friends and neighbors in Glen Cove, and with all those who are dedicated to the values of mutual respect and humanitarianism.”
The first incident of vandalism included the N-word, sprayed right next to the Children’s Memorial Garden, dedicated to the memory of millions of Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust. While there was not a specific piece of graffiti targeting Jews at that time, the center said this is exactly what happened before the Holocaust began. Four teenagers were seen on camera walking next to the HMTC and the adjacent Webb Institute at 10:08 p.m., according to the Glen Cove Police Department, which was immediately notified by the HMTC.
There was also blue paint found on a plaque with a quote from one of the Warsaw Uprising organizers, Vladka Meed, which reads, “Know that in the most difficult moments, when death is ever-present, we try to maintain human dignity.”
“It’s the first time we’ve had graffiti on the center’s property,” Steven Markowitz, chairman of the HMTC, said after the initial incident. “It’s very unnerving for two reasons. One, it makes us feel like more of a target than we have been up until now. We’ve been lucky over the years to not be the subject of graffiti or any anti-Semitic attacks of any kind. Second, we teach that the Holocaust didn’t start with concentration camps. They drew graffiti on Jewish-owned homes and stores. It’s very unsettling.”
The initial incident, revealed to the public on Monday, Nov. 25, was immediately condemned by the area’s elected officials.
“Such an action in general is vile and unbecoming of members of a civilized society,” Legislator Joshua Lafazan, whose grandfather fled from Europe during the Holocaust, said. “But to target the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center is such a flagrant and vicious act that the perpetrators should face the full wrath of the law.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran echoed Lafazan’s sentiment. “This brazen act of vandalism targeting the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County is not an isolated incident, and we take it very seriously,” she said in a statement after the second incident, which became known to the public ten days after the first. “We must never allow hateful acts, whether they come in the form of graffiti or violence, to find comfort in our communities.”
Curran also said there is a “zero tolerance policy for bigotry,” reiterating her previous statement about the first incident.
State Senator Jim Gaughran, who represents a large portion of the Town of Oyster Bay, was also disgusted by the graffiti. Gaughran announced that in response to the second incident, he will create an Anti-Hate Task Force, which will be composed of “elected officials, law enforcement, religious leaders, educators and other stakeholders to end this pattern of hateful behavior and address these disturbing hate crimes.”
Meanwhile, Nassau County officials and local businesses immediately offered to help the center remove the hateful paint. However,it was not removed until several days after the first incident took place.
“The United States was founded on the basic principle that all people are created equal,” Congressman Tom Suozzi (D—Glen Cove) said on Nov. 24 at an event with the UJA Federation of New York. “Fighting intolerance and bigotry is, and has always been, deeply personal to me.”
Suozzi expressed support for the Never Again Education Act, which will give teachers across America resources and training to specifically teach students about the Holocaust. The bill, proposed by Representative Carolyn Maloney (D—New York), was introduced on Jan. 31 and has bipartisan support from 294 of the 435 U.S. representatives, including Suozzi and Peter King (R—Seaford).
“Our whole mantra is to stand up to things like this,” Markowitz said. “We provide a service that’s necessary to prevent this an educate people. For anyone who has interest about learning, come visit the center. We are committed to stopping this kind of thing.”
Anyone with information on the suspects are asked to contact the Glen Cove Detective Division at 516-676-1002. All calls will remain confidential.
—Additional reporting by William Lucano