Residents of 30 homes on the far west side of Madison, Wisconsin’s state capital, woke up Saturday morning to find their property vandalized with spray-pained swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans, as well as obscene drawings, derogatory remarks about women and drawings of Confederate flags with the letters KKK beside them. Garage doors, driveways, and vehicles were all targeted by the vandals. The damage was estimated by Madison police as in excess of “tens of thousands of dollars,” which raises the crime to the level of felonious activity.
As reported by Madison’s ABC affiliate, WKOW-TV, none of the victims or their neighbors observed any suspects on Friday night, when the vandalism must have occurred. Officer David Dexheimer of the Madison Police Department said, “While some of the things that were written or painted are troubling, we don’t know that that was specifically targeted to a particular victim,” and that therefore the police are unsure whether this constitutes a “hate crime.”
The neighbors felt a little more certain of the nature of the graffiti than the police. Jim Stein, an 18-year resident of the area, said that he awoke Saturday morning to see “F**k Jews” spray-painted on a garage door across the street; later, when his neighbor had cleared the snow from his driveway, a swastika was found to have been spray-painted on the pavement.
Stein, who is the president of the local Jewish Federation, told WISC-TV, Madison’s CBS affiliate, “Everybody in the neighborhood is pretty upset. It was of course extremely disturbing to me. This is anti-Semitic to the extent that people feel comfortable equating Jewish people or the Jewish religion with scatological or vulgar language or the sexual parts of people’s bodies.”
“To me this reeks of anti-Semitism,” Stein, who found that his car had also been vandalized during the night, told the television station, “and that is an important wake-up call for the city of Madison.”
The incident in Madison can be seen as just the latest in a series of mounting anti-Semitic incidents around the country, in concert with growing trends around the world. For example, to name only a few, in December, a man screaming “I want to kill the Jew!” invaded the world headquarters of the Lubavitcher Hasidim in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where he stabbed a yeshiva student visiting from Israel in the face before police were able to shoot him. Also in December, garages and synagogues were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti in West Rogers Park, a heavily Jewish neighborhood of Chicago, IL. In September of last year, a yeshiva in Lakewood, NJ, was broken into by vandals, who defaced the study hall with swastikas and other anti-Semitic symbols. In August, 60-year-old Rabbi Joseph Raksin was shot to death in Miami, FL, while on his way to a local synagogue, reportedly by two African-American “juvenile delinquents”; also in August, a 45-year-old Jewish woman was attacked and injured by a “juvenile delinquent” spewing anti-Semitic abuse in Crown Heights.
Anti-Semitism often disguises itself as “anti-Zionism,” but, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, noted in a recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, “[T]he policies of the state of Israel are not made in kosher supermarkets in Paris, or in Jewish cultural institutions in Brussels and Mumbai. The targets in those cities were not Israeli. They were Jewish.”
To all of these can now also be added the shooting near a Copenhagen synagogue which left a volunteer security guard dead and two policemen wounded. There is nothing inexplicable about the motivations in any of these cases. The three-millennium-old prejudice against the nation which gave the world its moral code with the Bible is on the rise again.