Lakewood police investigate swastikas on homes

Rabbi: Crime was

Staff Writer

Rabbi: Crime was
‘slap in the face’
to Nazi victims
Staff Writer

On Veterans Day, swastikas painted on several Lakewood homes sent a message of hate to residents in the Orthodox Jewish community. For one of the victims, the act was an ugly reminder of the reason many Jews fled their homelands during World War II.

"It happened on Veterans Day — a slap in the face to 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust," said Rabbi Shimon Grama. "That made it more painful."

The swastika was the symbol of Hitler’s Third Reich in World War II-era Nazi Germany.

It was the rising sun of a new day that first alerted residents to the anti-Semitic graffiti in their midst.

According to Lakewood Police Capt. Rob Lawson, Patrolman Robert Redington responded to a Nov. 11 report of vandalism at a home on Evian Court in the Somerset Woods development off Williams Street. When the officer arrived, the homeowner told him that someone had painted a swastika on the side of the house, Lawson told the Tri-Town News.

"Sure enough, on the east side of the house, there was a swastika that had been painted using red and green spray paint," the captain said.

Lawson said Redington took some digital photos of the scene and filed a bias report. He said Detective Steven Wexler is continuing the investigation.

However, Redington soon discovered that the first house he responded to was not the only one that had been vandalized, Lawson said.

"Officer Redington continued to patrol in the area and found another house with a swastika painted on it in Omni Court," said Lawson. "Nobody was home at the second house."

A stop sign at the intersection of Williams Street and Prospect Avenue had also been defaced with a painted swastika, the captain said.

The Nov. 11 incident was not the first time an intruder had entered the development to cause emotional pain and property damage, according to Grama.

"A few weeks ago, during evening prayers, congregation members heard a big knock at the door, as if something had been thrown at [it] — which it had," he said.

The rabbi said members of the congregation found a large stone near the door. The decorative glass at the top of the door had been shattered and the frame around the glass had also been damaged. Grama said he did not believe the damage to be accidental.

"The synagogue is located in a residence, but everyone in the area knows that it serves the community as a house of worship — including those who are not members of the community," he said,

Lawson understood the pain felt by Grama and his congregation in the wake of the incidents.

"Who could explain why somebody commits a hate crime?" the police captain said. "A lot of it is ignorance. These people are out there unfortunately."

When asked if the perpetrators might be teenagers, Lawson said that is possible.

"Young people are impressionable and sometimes they act on [impulse]," he said.

Despite the ominous nature of the crime, Lawson saw hope that it would remain an isolated one.

"In Lakewood, we’re very fortunate," he said. "We’re like a melting pot. In general, everybody gets together."

Lawson’s observation was shared by Grama, but with some exceptions.

"Certain individuals representing certain communities, as well as certain newspapers, have used their podium for addressing issues to divide and not bring together, which is not responsible," the rabbi said.

He did not name any of the individuals, but Grama said his community did not intend to be driven out of the town they love.

"I just hope these issues clear up soon because the Lakewood community is a very beautiful community," said Grama.