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Swastikas, Taken in Stride

Anti-Semitic graffiti in Hasidic Brooklyn excites the media, but many residents—old and young—shrug

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A boy passes a swastika on the way into Fischman’s on Friday, June 15. (Chaya Zwolinski)
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Kohn is able—even needs—to talk about what she endured. But not everyone is able to, said Fischman, whose parents were Holocaust survivors. “My parents didn’t mention a word about the war or what they went through,” she said. She and her siblings never asked. “We were in awe of them and accorded them great honor. We believed their lives were private and wouldn’t have dreamed of prying into their personal thoughts.” Fischman said she learned the details of what her parents went through from nephews and nieces, “because they were the ones who felt comfortable asking questions.”

As I’ve got to know two and three generations of friends’ families, I’ve noticed this. Children of Holocaust survivors are sometimes the “skipped” generation; they don’t know the details of what their parents went through until they are told by their own children or other, younger relatives. More than a handful haven’t brought up the camps, hunger, and death with their parents, because they don’t want to hurt them, because their parents don’t bring it up, and sometimes because they’re afraid of tapping into repressed pain that can’t be contained.

Fischman’s parents were made of very strong stuff: Their faith in God and their stalwart natures sustained them. Fischman remembered them as positive, always looking forward. Not everyone is able to do this, she conceded. “An elderly survivor, a lady from Hungary, often comes in to buy her groceries,” Fischman said. “This lady was deeply affected by the war and is still afraid.” Sometimes, as she checks out the groceries, they talk, and “she cries, here in the store.”

But Fischman had practical issues to deal with; after all, there was a swastika on her doorway. “My first response was to grab a Mr. Clean eraser sponge and wipe it away,” she said. The police stopped her before she was able to destroy evidence.

“I was taught by my mother—as children we walked to school on the Eggerton Road, in Stamford Hill, London, and the other children would call us ‘bloody Jews’ and throw bottles and stones at us—to ignore the hatred and look the other way,” she said. “Mummy was the war generation, and this was nothing new for her. But today, we have to, we must, stick up for ourselves.”


By Saturday afternoon, Shabbos, an hour before mincha, the afternoon prayers, there were more uniformed and undercover New York police officers on the street than I’ve seen since the High Holidays some years ago, when the national guard was stationed here, complete with automatic weapons and camouflage, because of threats to synagogues. On the corner of 43rd Street and 15th Avenue, a movie-star-handsome policeman in full uniform stood in front of Freund’s Fish Store, which was closed for the Sabbath. A gaggle of smitten boys in their best Shabbos clothing and shined shoes surrounded him. The grin on his face signaled how much he was enjoying his assignment to this Yiddish-accented answer to Mayberry.

In Borough Park, children who have never seen a movie or television show, let alone heard of The Wire or CSI, fervently admire police officers, firefighters, and construction workers (and even mail carriers in their summer pith helmets). And the cops seem to adore the kids right back. My husband and I walked on.

The swastikas were a momentary blip in an otherwise normal Erev Shabbos. The younger boys only had eyes for the after-effects: a uniform stationed on every corner. Victimhood doesn’t seem to be in this new generation’s psycho-spiritual makeup—and except for the politicians and publicity-seekers, most people just want to move on.


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David Gold says:

This should not be taken in stride and i hope they find who did this and put them in lil concentration camps no pun intended this is not ok and should not be tolerated and where is outrage from our christian world and Rev AL and Jesse would a dbl standard

D'vorah Elias says:

Sometimes when I read stories like this I think at least we Jews are still here. If we were not  here, then these Swastikas would have no meaning whatsoever. The fact that they do have meaning to us is a sign of life.

PhillipNagle says:

An anti-Semite may elected to congress from NY .  The swatikas are the least of our worries.

yevka says:

 Yes, we can only tolerate the Arab refugee camps and the settlements. So well put.

rachellepachtman says:

I am deeply troubled by the ugly rise in hate rhetoric and activities across every strata of America, including that against Jews, Muslims, LGBT individuals and people of color, not to mention that against the President, regardless of one’s political beliefs. This weekend, more than 200 diverse secular, religious and racial groups joined together in a silent walk against the disproportionate number of “stop and frisk” incidents, totaling something like 700,000 this year. I have often wondered how I could possibly breathe if I had a husband or son of color every time they went out at night and I awaited their return.

It would be good for us all to remember that we are made in the image of Hashem.  When we refuse to permit these acts against one group and set an example of kindness and compassion in our daily actions, we take a stand for the well-being and safety of our own people. But hey, that’s just me. Kudos to Ms. Zwolinski for reminding us of the wounding inflicted on those who have suffered hateful travesties on previous occasions. May we all hold a vision for a time when humans are motivated by love for their fellow humans rather than by fear and hatred.

One congressman has absolutely no power.  If he tries something, the other 434 of them will bat it down in an instant.  There’s nothing to worry about there.

PhillipNagle says:

Actually what worries me is 100,000 or so people who would vote for an anti-Semite.  What worries me is the 200 or so Democrat congressmen who will welcome him into their caucus. What worries me is an anti-Semite achieving respectability.  I could go on but there is a lot more at stake then one congressman.

ricksonelliot says:

I give 5 days before we find out it was a Jew who did it like 80% of the other so called attacks, but that is always reported on page 16 , lol

ricksonelliot says:

Maybe because the last 10 incidents from the Brooklyn cars being burned and swastickers being painted to the girl who with tears in her eyes at nyu over a swastickers being left on the door all were Jewish hoaxes, revealed days later

ricksonelliot says:

Yet Jews have worked extremely hard ,feller,Horowitz,pipes, and so on to create the phony ” Muslims hate us and want to take over America myth” stop spreading hate in our country,we are not Israel

ricksonelliot says:

By antisemite you mean a candidate who refuses to allow Jewish interests to force him to betray America for Israel, we love you Charles Barron,bob pascrell,and lee whitnum, and the queens candidate that told the debate moderator two days ago her Jewish opponent only cares about Israel, we are proud of you brave patriots putting your carreers on the line to stand up to the Jewish lobby’s treason

emunadate says:

This should not be tolerated. Coming from a family who lost so many in the holocaust, I believe that accepting this behavior will only bring on worse in the way of hate crimes…

Tira Dentes says:

Here in a country which was occupied by the Germans, you don’t have to be Jewish to shudder when you see a swastika, though we shrug and think it must be a kid who watched too many of these Hollywood movies about WWII.


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Swastikas, Taken in Stride

Anti-Semitic graffiti in Hasidic Brooklyn excites the media, but many residents—old and young—shrug

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