New acts of hate targeting Jewish families were perpetrated in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn Tuesday, for the second day in a row.
As CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis reported, police on Tuesday had surrounded a building in Williamsburg after someone once again torched a sacred religious symbol known as a mezuzah.
On Monday, a dozen Jewish families in the same Independence Towers housing development also saw vandals burn their mezuzot, on the 70th anniversary of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
With the latest incident just after 1 p.m. Tuesday, the outrage had been compounded in the community.
“I was a little bit shocked to see what’s going on again. The next building? What is it going to happen again?” said neighbor Pessie Gelb.
The scene Tuesday at 130 Clymer St. was just steps away from the fiery vandalism in Monday in another building in the same development at 85 Taylor St. In the Monday incident, mezuzot on affixed to several doors on several floors were set afire.
A mezuzah – mezuzot in plural form – is a piece of parchment inscribed with the prayer “Shema Yisroel,” which is affixed to door frames in Jewish homes. They are symbols of God’s protection over the home.
Investigators have called the vandalism a rash of hate crimes.
“It’s devastating,” said resident Raizy Fogel. “It’s very sad and such things shouldn’t happen.”
Fogel said the desecrated religious items are now being targeted to send a message around Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The message, Fogel said, is “that we are unwanted here, and I don’t know why.”
Residents said just last year — vandals spray-painted swastikas outside the buildings.
City and community leaders are now coming together and demanding more be done to protect these residents and their homes from hate and violence.
“These fires were hate crimes and they were perpetrated by a coward or cowards,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
“An action like this is absolutely disgusting, it cannot be tolerated,” said Brooklyn Councilman Stephen Levin. “For something like this to happen, it really strikes deep in terms of its hurtfulness and the malice that’s involved.”
“Nothing but hatred can explain why someone would burn Mezuzahs on Yom Hashoah, the day we remember the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “This is a sickening act of prejudice that strikes at the very core of who we are as a city.”
“This kind of disgusting hatred has no place in Brooklyn, a borough that was built on diversity. And to desecrate mazuzahs on the day we remember those who died during the Holocaust is unforgivable,” stated Sen. Eric Adams. “When the perpetrators of this hate crime are caught — and I’m confident they will be — they should face the maximum penalty under the law.”
“This is a blatant act of anti-Semitism with a clear attempt to instill fear and intimidate the victims in their homes,” said Etzion Neuer, the Anti-Defamation League’s acting New York regional director.
Police are reviewing a number of surveillance cameras posted in and around the building hoping to find video of a suspect or suspects.
No one was hurt, but the apartment door jambs will have to be repaired and in some cases, replaced.