NEW CITY, N.Y. — A local rabbi was fighting back after swastikas and other messages of hate were found spray-painted onto trees in the woods in New City.
The symbols of hate themselves were disturbing enough. But the placement was especially disturbing for the Rockland County Jewish community.
The large swastikas and pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic slogans were discovered facing the center of what appears to be an informal meeting place in the woods.
The site is not easy to find, and somehow, that makes it even worse than the acts of hate that Jewish leaders have seen in the area in the past.
“Scarier and creepier. I didn’t want to walk back there by myself, truthfully,” said Rabbi David Berkman of the New City Jewish Center. “You wouldn’t really know about it. Only the people who walk there would really know about it. To me, that was profoundly disturbing.”
Police have known about the swastikas since July, and their hate crime investigation remains open. Rabbi Berkman says he decided to make it public as a way of fighting back.
Most people in the community were finding out about the images for the first time Tuesday.
“What strikes me about it is how large it is; how repeated it is,” said Yossi Gestetner of the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Committee.
Gestetner said the continued presence of a secluded place like the one where the swastikas were found points to the danger that symbols once reviled will begin to become normalized and commonplace again.
“Some people — I don’t know if it’s three, 13 or 30 people — spent time here surrounded by hate, and that’s very bad,” Gestetner said.
Clarkstown police said they finished processing the scene back in July. No arrests have been made and the swastikas are still there.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day said he never saw a report on the secluded site, despite numerous other acts of vandalism, that got attention in more public areas. But he has seen the pattern before.
“This is graffiti that goes to Nazism. It’s anti-Semitic. It’s racist. Whoever did it is not balanced in my view,” Day said. “Bottom line is this — somebody dropped the ball. I’m not worried about that at this point. I just want to address it and get it out of here.”
A formal ceremony to obliterate the hateful images is scheduled for Wednesday.
Investigators said the height of the spray-painted graffiti indicates the vandals may be teenagers or adults.