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December 22, 2021 6:10 pm
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NJ Governor Condemns Swastikas Graffitied at Local Synagogue and Schools

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Rialto Theatre in Westfield, New Jersey. Photo Credit: Jazz Guy/Flickr.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Tuesday condemned a spate of antisemitic graffiti incidents that recently came to light throughout his state, including at a synagogue and local schools.

Murphy’s statement followed reports that a jogger in West Orange discovered a “trio” of swastikas drawn on the sidewalk of B’nai Shalom Temple on Saturday afternoon. According to a local outlet, police immediately launched an investigation of the incident and the symbols were erased.

“I am appalled that swastikas were recently drawn outside a synagogue in West Orange, at Westfield High School, and at Marlton Middle School,” the governor tweeted on Tuesday. “We will not let antisemitism or hatred go unchallenged here in New Jersey, and we will hold those behind these despicable acts responsible.”

His remarks drew praise from the local Anti-Defamation League chapter, which said it had “been in touch with all victims” involved.

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Earlier in the week, the West Orange municipal government condemned “the cowardly acts of hate perpetrated against our Jewish brothers and sisters,” while a local resident who said B’nai Shalom Temple was his “family’s life long synagogue” pledged to “never let hate or antisemitism win. We’re not going anywhere. Jewish and proud.”

Antisemitic graffiti is an ongoing problem in New Jersey communities and schools. In December, swastikas were scrawled in the boys bathroom twice in one week at Marlton Middle School in Evesham, Burlington County. In one incident, a swastika was drawn with a “stick figure with x’ed out eyes,” and the messages, “Hitler was right” and “Jew,” according to Evesham Superintendent of Schools Justin Smith.

Earlier this month, a swastika sticker captioned “We are everywhere” was found at Adath Emanu-El synagogue’s parking lot in nearby Mount Laurel.

That week, two swastikas and a racial slur were found in bathrooms at Westfield High School in Union County. Another swastika was spotted in a girl’s bathroom at the school less than a week beforehand, and another was reported in a bathroom stall in March.

In a statement, Westfield High School Principal Mary Asfendis said there is “a pervasive problem of antisemitism and intolerance at our high school.” A schoolwide talk to address “the impact of acts of hate in our school and community” was planned for this week.

Speaking to a local paper, Lurie Silverman, a parent of three Westfield High School students, argued that antisemitism in Westfield isn’t a problem its public schools can solve.

“Myself and others are disappointed in the response from town officials and the board of education over the years,” she said. “They keep throwing it back to the schools as [if it’s] their issue, but it really is a town-wide problem.”

Earlier this month, Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle said a town hall meeting “to discuss how we can do better” will be held in February.

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