MANOR HEIGHTS, Staten Island — As the number of hate crimes rises in New York City, a group of political, community and religious leaders joined with Staten Island residents Tuesday to oppose acts of hate.
Their news conference and rally came in the wake of the latest scrawling of anti-Semitic graffiti in the city, and the event sent a message that whoever is behind it will be prosecuted, and that neighbors will do all they can to stop such crimes from happening in the first place.
People from a variety of backgrounds filled the community room at the Chabad of Staten Island synagogue, where somebody had spray painted the words "Synagogue of Satan" on an outer wall of the building in the early morning hours of last Thursday. They'd also sprayed the letters "SOS," which apparently stands for the same phrase as the other graffito, on a wall at the Yeshiva Zichron Paltiel, across the street from the Chabad, on Harold Street.
"This graffiti on the wall," said Rabbi Moshe Katzman, the leader of the Chabad, at the morning news conference, "will show us in Staten Island, the forgotten borough, we didn't forget. We woke up!"
The synagogue left the graffiti up for five days. Tuesday's rally, organized by local Congressman Max Rose and other community leaders was intended to eliminate the offensive scrawl, in a public way, which also brought together the Staten Island community.
"We're defined by the rabbis, the imams, the pastors, the civic leaders," Rose told the gathering. "It's important that we condemn anti-Semitism," he continued. "I say that as a Jew, I say that as your congressman."
Then, the invited guests, as well as some people just passing by, applauded as Rose, City Councilmember Steven Matteo and Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon rolled white paint over the offensive graffito.
It was an act meant to defy a rising tide in New York. Last Saturday, somebody painted anti-semitic words and a swastika in a covered walkway in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.
It's all part of an ugly trend. So far this year, hate crimes in New York City are up 83 percent over the same period last year, according to the NYPD.
The police department compiles and tracks hate crime statistics with one goal in mind: to combat the crimes. Clear evidence of that was apparent outside of the synagogue of Tuesday. NYPD patrols passed by as frequently as possible.
The commander of the police department on Staten Island said that more is needed.
"Someone out there knows who perpetrated this crime," Chief Kenneth Corey said. "Tell us. Help us keep you safe."
One of the two anti-Semitic scrawls remains. The "SOS" on a retaining wall of the yeshiva has not been painted over. One of the building's many cameras is pointed at the retaining wall. It's not clear if it recorded the act of vandalism.
But Chief Corey encouraged anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers.
Submit tips to police by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), visiting http://www.nypdcrimestoppers.com, or texting 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577. Spanish-speaking callers are asked to dial 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).AlertMe