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Vandals Deface New York Jewish Communal Building with Anti-Israel Messages

An exterior wall of the Bellerose Jewish Center was discovered Friday morning to have been vandalized with pro-Palestine graffiti.

Rabbi Menashe Bovit said the words “Free Palestine” were found to have been spray painted on the synagogue alleyway wall, opposite the wall of the Services Now for Adult Persons senior center next door, which had been spray painted with “Jews for Gaza.” The SNAP facility had been purchased from the congregation in 2013. 

It is unclear whether the vandalism occurred early Friday or late Thursday, as the synagogue — which is in the process of being sold — does not have security cameras. 

A spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed Bovit’s report, and said that the Hate Crimes Task Force had assessed the site. The spokesperson noted that police have neither deemed the incident a hate crime nor ruled it out as one, as the investigation is ongoing. It has, however, been classified as a case of “criminal mischief.”

Bovit, who described the graffiti as “anti-Israel and pro-Hamas” strongly objected to the fact that the incident has not, at this point, been deemed a hate crime. 

“If they would have graffitied that on 7-Eleven, you can call that ‘criminal mischief,’ I guess — that might be a hate crime, too,” he told the Chronicle. “But certainly going on a synagogue knowing that it’s meant to be a hateful message towards Jews, that’s certainly a hate crime, isn’t that?”

“‘Jews for Gaza’ is meant to be specifically poking in the eyes of the Jew,” he added later. 

Corey Bearak, who chairs the Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council, was similarly upset by the vandalism. “It’s on a synagogue building and on a building that used to be a synagogue building,” he said. “That makes it a hate crime.”

“Cowardly, irresponsible thugs defaced the Bellerose Jewish Center last night,” Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Nassau, Queens), said of the incident in a post to X. “Our good friends in the 105th precinct of the NYPD must investigate and bring these criminals to justice. Hate has no home here.”

As of Friday afternoon, police said the investigation is ongoing.