By David Brand
Two separate instances of anti-Semitic and white nationalist vandalism marred Labor Day Weekend along the Rockaway Peninsula and prompted forceful denunciations from local leaders and Jewish community groups.
The hate messages, scrawled on walls in Breezy Point and a beach in Belle Harbor, were just the latest examples of racist graffiti in Queens, where hate crimes are on the rise, according to city statistics and reporting by the Anti-Defamation League.
“It is time for the rampant and often violent acts of anti-Semitism to stop,” the Queens Brandeis Association said in a statement to the Eagle. “The Brandeis Association calls upon the leaders of all communities to speak up against this form of bigotry and hatred and to make it known that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated.”
Vandals scrawled “gas chamber,” anti-Semitic messages and other racial slurs on the walls and playground at the Silver Gull, a private beach club in Breezy Point. The graffiti, smeared in red paint, forced the Silver Gull to close its playground.
Two days later, beachgoers in nearby Belle Harbor encountered more anti-Semitic messages dug into the sand. The messages included specific white nationalist slogans, including “white pride” and “14/88.”
The numbers are a common trope among white nationalists. The “14” represents the 14-word white supremacist slogan “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. While the “88” represents “HH” — H is the eighth letter of the alphabet — and stands for “Heil Hitler,” the ADL explains.
“I was horrified and disgusted to learn of not only one, but two incidents in our community this weekend where Nazi imagery and anti-Semitic graffiti were discovered,” local Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato wrote on Facebook. “The fact that these images were discovered means that there is a systematic attempt to intimidate this community.”
Pheffer Amato called on community members to “demonstrate that our love and commitment to our community is stronger than their attempt [to] instill fear and intimidation. We must stand up together against this bigotry and intolerance.”
The NYPD sent additional officers to patrol the area, she added.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the state police’s Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate the racist graffiti.
“I am disgusted by the anti-Semitic symbols and racist graffiti found at the Silver Gull's playground,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Enough is enough.”
Despite an overall decrease in crime, an NYPD report from May 2019 showed an 82 percent increase in anti-Semitic crimes in the first quarter of 2019 and a 67 percent increase in total hate crimes.
Hate crimes increased in the city by 64 percent between June of this year and June 2018, with anti-Semitic hate crimes accounting for 60 percent of all report hate crimes, according to data from the NYPD cited by the Mayor’s Office in a June report on the city’s new Office of Hate Crime Prevention.
The Brandeis Association continues to fight back against white supremacy by educating community members and partnering with other associations for events highlighting the rise of hatred and its echoes from the past.
“After the election in 2016 and then the [white supremacist rally] in Charlottesville last year, we began to take more notice of anti-semitism,” Neda Melamed, co-chair of the Brandeis Association’s Committee on Anti-Semitism and a past association president, told the Eagle last year. “As judges, lawyers and members of the legal community we felt it was our responsibility to continue this education.”
Correction: A previous version of this article identified the second site of the anti-Semitic graffiti as Broad Channel and not Belle Harbor.