‘Burn the Jews’ graffiti a ‘sobering reminder’ anti-Semitism lives in NJ, group says
The Defamation League of New Jersey says graffiti found at a Toms River playground is a "reprehensible display of hate" and a "a sobering reminder that anti-Semitism has the potential to rear its ugly head."
The incident is a reminder "that New Jersey towns and cities are not immune to anti-Jewish animus,” Joshua Cohen, ADL New Jersey Regional Director, said in a statement from the organization. “We applaud the Toms River Police Department for addressing this incident with the seriousness and speed that it deserves, and hope that the perpetrators of this anti-Semitic crime will be brought to justice.”
According to Toms River police, they found the phrase "Burn the Jews" and several obscenities, scratched into playground equipment at Riverwood Park earlier this week. The incident had been reported to the Lakewood Civilian Patrol.
Police observed that in addition to being odious, the graffiti was badly spelled. Township buildings and grounds workers needed about two hours to eradicate it, police said.
In Toms River and other nearby towns, tensions have been growing between the area's sizable community of Orthodox Jews and their neighbors. For instance: In 2014, residents Jackson successfully opposed a push to open an Orthodox girls high school; it wound up opening in a Lakewood industrial park where more than a dozen other yeshivas were already located instead. A judge on Thursday reportedly denied a Talmudic study hall's request to open in a shuttered Lakewood building municipal authorities have reportedly boarded up as code enforcement violation notices were ignored by the occupants.
And last month, Toms River approved an ordinance barring door-to-door solicitations in much of the North Dover section of town — a response to aggressive real estate solicitors residents said were ignoring no-knock lists and requests to be left alone, as the solicitors seek out new properties for the Orthodox community.
Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher condemned the graffiti incident earlier this week.
“As soon as we found out about this incident, I began to monitor the police department’s investigation," he said. I also asked the director of the township’s parks, buildings and grounds department to remove the panel on the playground equipment immediatey."
He continued: "In Toms River, we have no tolerance for anti-Semitic attacks. We will not accept this reprehensible behavior. This action is being rightfully condemned and thoroughly investigated. As good neighbors we need to be ever vigilant and report suspicious activity in neighborhoods, schools and at work. Please call the Toms River Police Department if you have any leads. It is up to all of us to make Toms River a welcoming place to live, work and raise a family.”
Investigators are exploring whether the incident rises to the level of criminality — or might have been the work of "ignorant teenagers," police said. In any case, the offender would be charged appropriately, police have said.
"We applaud the Toms River Police Department for addressing this incident with the seriousness and speed that it deserves, and hope that the perpetrators of this anti-Semitic crime will be brought to justice," Cohen, of the ADL, said.
— Reporting by Tom Mongelli was used in this post