Firefighters, Rabbi reach out to help elderly residents targeted with hate symbol

Fire crew erases swastika carved in wet concrete
Posted at 7:37 PM, May 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 21:37:27-04

WESTMINSTER, Colo. -- Hate-related incidents are on the rise in Metro Denver. In the latest case, firefighters found swastikas carved into a freshly poured concrete sidewalk in Westminster.

They quickly grabbed a bottle of water, poured it onto the crudely scratched symbols, and rubbed them out.

"It's sad that there is that much hate in the world, and that things like that are put in something like concrete that can dry and last forever," said Michelle Meyer, activity director at Greenridge Place Assisted Living Center.

After learning about the swastikas and the firefighters’ good deeds, Rabbi Benjy Brackman and his wife, of the Chabad of NW Metro Denver, took a bundle of challah bread to the residents at Greenridge.

“Our reaction to that, is to dispel those hateful actions with the actions of positivity, love and kindness,” Brackman said. “I felt it was appropriate to bring the challah bread which is all about peace.”

“It was an amazing gesture,” Meyer said, “to share Challah bread with our residents who may have been affected.”

Anti-Defamation League Audit

A 2016 ADL audit identified:

  • 29 cases of harassment and threats in Colorado

  • 15 cases of vandalism in the state

  • 1 physical assault on a Jewish individual in Colorado

Denver’s Washington Virginia Vale neighborhood, just east of Glendale, was blanketed with anti-Semitic and racist graffiti overnight on April 26, 2016. Three dozen vehicles, at least one home, neighborhood streets, street signs and additional property were vandalized. The graffiti included swastikas and the message, “Kill Jews.” The incident happened during Passover in a neighborhood with many Jewish residents and Jewish Institutions.

In Erie, a Jewish teacher had anti-Semitic hate speech written on her classroom dry erase board on at least two occasions in May of 2016.

And in Fort Collins, a Jewish blogger and journalist received hundreds of threats and anti-Semitic comments on Twitter. In addition, his personal contact information was published on a neo-Nazi website, in June of 2016.

Scott Levin, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, told Denver7 that the number of anti-Semitic incidents more than doubled in 2016 from the previous year.

“There were 45 incidents last year in Colorado,” he said, “compared to 18 in 2015.”

Levin said there have been 15 incidents so far this quarter, and added that “if we stay on that trend, we will have three times as many incidents this year as we had in 2015.”

When asked why the increase, Levin said it’s because some people have become more emboldened to act out on their prejudices.

“It can be something as passive as calling people out because of their identity… all the way up to assault, vandalism and tagging,” he said. “A particularly crushing one that I saw was the 83-year old woman who walked out of a Costco this past winter, and saw that someone had drawn a swastika in the snow on her car, with their finger.”

Levin told Denver7 that perpetrators are trying to send a message, “that I don’t like you or people like you.”

He said it’s important to call people out on their prejudicial acts.

“Call it out and really make it clear that that’s not the way we are in Colorado,” he said. “We actually want to send the counter-message that people of all different sorts and types and identities are welcome in Colorado.”

Levin said it’s important that law enforcement take these incidents seriously as well.

“It’s important to identify those issues early on,” he said, “because often times they can escalate into something much more serious."

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