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.
“It’s the first time we’ve had graffiti on the center’s property,” Steven Markowitz, chairman of the HMTC, told the Oyster Bay Enterprise-Pilot. “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 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 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, 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. on Saturday, Nov. 23, according to the Glen Cove Police Department, which was notified right away 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 clear that hate crimes of any type, including anti-Semitism, are on the rise,” Markowitz said. “The only answer is education. We’re living in a very turbulent time with rapidly-changing demographics on Long Island. Your neighbors don’t look like you anymore. There’s different cultures and different languages. People have a difficult time with change and they lash out, which is what we saw.”
The 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 is sickening,” Curran said on Twitter. “Nassau County has a zero tolerance policy for bigotry. We must never allow this level of hatred to find comfort in our communities.”
State Senator Jim Gaughran, who represents a large portion of the Town of Oyster Bay, was also disgusted by the graffiti.
“I am sickened to learn of the racist graffiti that was found at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County,” Gaughran said in a statement. “The center is a sacred place and a sanctuary to many. This incident is a hateful attack on all our communities and should not be tolerated. I am united with the Glen Cove community as we disavow such ugly acts of hate.”
But words are not enough when a place like the HMTC is the victim of such an egregious attack.
“It’s up to government and community leaders to speak up against this, and to provide the educational tools to do it,” Markowitz said.
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 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).
Since then, there have been several isolated anti-Semitic incidents recorded on Long Island.
“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.”
Anyone with information on the suspects are asked to contact the Glen Cove Detective Division at 516-676-1002. All calls will remain confidential.