Swastikas in Borough Park
“We go about our lives as if anti-Semitism can’t touch us here in the United States.”
This morning, sometime around 3:00 AM, at least five swastikas were spray painted on buildings and a car in Borough Park, Brooklyn, an area heavily populated by the remaining, living survivors of the Holocaust and their children and grand children. The NYPD is investigating and treating this as a hate crime.
So am I. When I heard that Fischman’s Food Center, a grocery store owned by Bobover Hasidim on 16th Avenue, was targeted, I grabbed my camera and walked the block-and-a-half, my heart pounding. I’ve known the Fischmans since I moved here eight years ago.
The store was surrounded by crime-scene tape, residents, news teams, and detectives. A large swastika was spray-painted on one front window of the store and the vandals’ tag, Recon, was sprayed on another. A member of Shomrim, the volunteer civilian patrol which works closely with the NYPD, told me that the Fischman’s security cameras recorded the two vandals in the act shortly before 3:00 am. He said that more scenes would likely be uncovered throughout the day.
Inside the store, I overheard a member of the hate crimes taskforce say they were able to extract the images, which were very good quality.
The shopkeepers are Moshe and Scheindel Fischman who’ve been in business since the 1970s. Mrs. Fischman is a great-grandmother in her 60s and the daughter of holocaust survivors. Her father Moshe David, who passed away almost two years ago at the age of 97, was a hero responsible for keeping a contingent of Siberian WWII prisoners alive.
At night, in below-freezing weather, he’d sneak past armed guards and attack dog, sift through the guards’ garbage pails, and smuggle potato skins under his clothing. Also, under open threats of death, he performed numerous (over 70), ritual circumcisions, on infant Jewish boys born in the Siberian wasteland. For Mrs. Fischman, as for most inhabitants of Borough Park, this triggers traumatic memories.
“My father brought me from England to America in 1969. I saw open anti-Semitism growing up in England. The other school-children would throw things at us on our way to school.” America, she said, was a “breath of fresh air” to her, and where she decided to stay and raise a family.
Down the block from the Fischmans’ store, on 42nd Street between 15th and 16th, and around the corner from the Montauk High School, another swastika has been sprayed on a van window.
In Borough Park, before you see the NYPD (or firefighters), you see the admiring children, mostly elementary school-age boys with long peyos and Yiddish accents, and a sprinkling of a few shy girls. One of the officers at the scene was talking to a resident, who told me that this isn’t the first time she’s witnessed this kind of vandalism. Another resident, Suri bas-Chana, told me that this was “a wake-up call.”
“We aren’t really paying attention,” she told me. “We go about our lives as if anti-Semitism can’t touch us here in the United States.”
Two blocks in the other direction up 16th Avenue from the Fischman’s store, the Stolin synagogue was targeted. Several film crews are at the scene. Around the corner a mikvah was similarly defaced.
Councilman David Greenfield released a statement: “Once again, we find ourselves under attack from individuals who think nothing of spreading hate and fear throughout the community. This is absolutely unacceptable, especially in an area that is home to so many Holocaust survivors. Rest assured, I will work with the NYPD until those responsible for this horrific crime are caught and held responsible.”
He’s offering $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.
The locations of five swastikas (reports are coming in that over eight have been found, are): 4609 16th Ave., 4619 16th Ave., 4423 16th Ave., 4623 18th Ave., and 42nd between 15th and 16th on a van.