New York Neighborhood Marches Against anti-Semitism After Arson Attacks

Demonstration organized in response to vehicles being torched and swastikas being spray-painted on park benches on main street of Brooklyn neighborhood populated by many religious Jews.

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Peaceful marchers sent a clear message Sunday to vandals who torched cars and scrawled Nazi swastikas in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Brooklyn where Woody Allen was raised: Don't repeat the kind of attacks that once led to the Holocaust.

About 100 Midwood residents joined elected officials for the walk past four public benches from which 16 swastikas had been removed after the pre-dawn attack Friday.

A car engulfed in flames, September 21, 2011.Credit: AP

On Ocean Parkway, three parked cars — a BMW, a Lexus and a Jaguar — had been set ablaze. In addition, the letters "KKK" were spray-painted on a van and anti-Semitic messages were scrawled on a sidewalk.

In all my 29 years of experience as a community business owner in Brooklyn, I cant remember an anti-Semitic incident as harsh and frightening as the one that took place in Midwood neighborhood last Friday, New York State Assembly Representative Dov Hikind said to Haaretz.

Hikind represents a good portion of the Boro Park and Midwood neighborhoods, populated by large concentrations of religious and ultra-Orthodox Jews. Hikind marched Sunday in the front line of the demonstration against anti-Semitism, alongside dozens of local business owners and community members, representing all the groups living in Midwood.

Sadly, we have gotten used to manifestations of anti-Semitism that take the form of swastikas on synagogue walls or acts of vandalism that do not cause much damage. But the incident on Friday in Midwood had an especially violent character, to an extent we havent experienced until now, said Hikind.

In addition to swastikas and slogans denunciating Jews spray-painted onto vehicles on the neighborhoods busiest street, three cars were set on fire. From the major damage done to the cars, it is obvious that they were blown up by professionals who planned the attack, said Hikind.

To see property damage like this and cars up in flames, in a quiet residential neighborhood like Midwood that is populated mainly by Jews, was shocking to me, he said.

Protesters noted the attack occurred one day after the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany on Nov. 9-10, 1938, when synagogues were set on fire and the windows of Jewish-owned shops were broken.

Rabbis and business owners say that the residents are nervous and frightened because no one knows who is responsible for such a violent anti-Semitic outburst. The police have yet to turn up any leads and the FBI has joined the investigation.

The Anti-Defamation League has announced a $4000 reward for anyone who submits information that leads to the capture of those responsible for the attacks. A New York City counselor announced a prize of $1000.

At atmosphere of fear hovered over the Satmar community in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on Sunday, as well. An ultra-Orthodox Jew was attacked on Sunday, the fifth attack of its kind to take place in the neighborhood in the last year.

A survey published two weeks ago by the Anti-Defamation League stated that 2011 has seen an increase in anti-Semitism among Americans. According to the results of the survey, 15% of U.S. residents, numbering 35 million people, hold anti-Semitic beliefs.

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