Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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Anti-Jewish Vandalism Discovered in New York Hamlet

UPDATE April 16, 2020: Sebastian Patino Caceres has been arrested in relation to this incident; more here.

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In the early hours of Monday morning, the East Meadow community uncovered a heinous act of antisemitism. Along a large stretch of fencing on Merrick Avenue, just a few blocks south of Front Street, several antisemitic remarks were found spray painted, bearing statements like “Zionism is Nazism,” “Stop the Genocide” and “Free Palestine.”

The heavily trafficked road connects Bellmore and Merrick to East Meadow, and the messages were found just a mile away from the East Meadow Beth-El Jewish Center. Neighborhoods nearby have a large number of Jewish residents. As the war between Israel and Hamas continues in the Middle East, antisemitism remains on the rise in the United States — and Monday’s incident sparked outrage from the community and elected officials.

Debbie Habshoosh, whose yard backs up to Merrick Avenue, began displaying fliers on her fence last fall, showing photos of hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7. Habshoosh’s husband is Israeli, she told the Herald, and in the six months since she put up the fliers, nothing has been vandalized.

But on April 15, she discovered the fliers had been defaced by the antisemitic graffiti, which didn’t just end on her fence, because a good majority of her neighbors’ fences had also been vandalized.
While it is unclear what time the graffiti was painted, Habshoosh said she checked her fence around 10 p.m. on the evening of April 14, and it had yet to be tampered with.

“I have never seen such a brazen attack on our friends of the Jewish faith,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said at a news conference on Monday, in response to the incident. “We should all be outraged, and we should all make a commitment that we are not going to stand for antisemitism in our communities.”

At the conference, Clavin was joined by Hempstead Town Councilmen Chris Carini and Dennis Dunne, Receiver of Taxes Jeanine Driscoll, Nassau County Legislator Tom McKevitt and District Attorney Anne Donnelly, along with dozens of East Meadow residents.

Clavin called East Meadow “the heartbeat” of the Town of Hempstead.

“This is a thriving community with many individuals of many faiths, but a hard practicing congregation is just blocks away that I’ve been to many times,” he added. “I’ve never been so disgusted in my entire life as a public official.”
Clavin said the Town of Hempstead has dealt with acts of antisemitism in the past — but the size of the graffiti found in East Meadow was startling.

“We’ve seen antisemitism in the town in minor details, a small scrolling or marking, but never anything to this level, on a busy road in the heart of this community,” he said.

Donnelly said the incident is a “hate crime,” which means a crime is committed with a bias motivation. She added her office has seen an increase in hate crimes in the last six months, and are aggressively prosecuting individuals responsible.

“Hate crimes are not acceptable in our town,” she said. “To our Jewish brothers and sisters — my heart hurts for you today. This is not something you should have to see. This is not something that you should have to put up with. I stand by you and stand with you, and will prosecute the individual and work with the police department to find out who did this.”

The Town of Hempstead’s Quality of Life taskforce, which was created by Carini, promptly began to remove the graffiti from the fences.

“We must stand firm with our ally,” Carini said. “We must stand firm against antisemitism. We must stand firm against international terrorism. And we must demand that Albany fixes our broken criminal justice system and holds these criminals accountable.”

“We read about these things in the news — you see them on the news all the time, but to see it happening two minutes from our synagogue here, it’s something else,” Rabbi Aaron Marsh, the spiritual leader of East Meadow Beth-El said.
Marsh added everyone has the right to their own beliefs, but to deface property is outrageous. “It’s an act of intimidation,” he said.

The sidewalk in front of East Meadow Beth-El had also been defaced, with a spray painted statement that reads “Free Palestine.”

There are no surveillance cameras along Merrick Avenue that point directly at the vandalized fence line. The Nassau County Police Department and Nassau County District Attorney’s Office began investigating the graffiti around 6:20 a.m. on Monday morning, and are asking locals to check their home’s cameras, and report any findings to the police or the DA’s office.

“The location of this hateful act was not chosen by accident,” McKevitt, who also resides in East Meadow said. “This is a portion of East Meadow which has a very large Jewish community. It was designed to incite violence and hate, which we will not tolerate here. To the coward who did this — you may run, but you cannot hide. We will find just what happened here today.”