Lo­cal Jewish lead­ers re­act to swastikas

The Norwalk Hour - - FRONT PAGE - By John Nick­er­son

STAM­FORD — Diane Sloyer in­ter­preted three swastikas with the words “good luck” scrib­bled in chalk on down­town side­walks this week as a chal­lenge to the Jewish com­mu­nity.

“It is dis­turb­ing,” said Sloyer, CEO of the United Jewish Fed­er­a­tion of Greater Stam­ford, New Canaan and Darien. “It is hard to wake up in the morn­ing not know­ing what we are go­ing to see on that par­tic­u­lar day.”

Po­lice are look­ing for a man wear­ing a back­pack who was caught on sur­veil­lance video near the Fer­gu­son Li­brary around 3:30 a.m. Thurs­day. One of the swastikas with the mes­sage “good luck” and a pic­ture of a heart was drawn on the side­walk out­side the Broad Street li­brary.

Sim­i­lar draw­ings were found Thurs­day morn­ing in front of 285 Bed­ford St. and 11 For­est St.

Sloyer called the swastikas bla­tant sym­bols of anti-Semitism and hate.

“It is dis­turb­ing and un­nerv­ing, and I cer­tainly hope they catch the per­son,” she said.

The in­ci­dent oc­curred about two weeks af­ter 11 peo­ple were killed dur­ing a ser­vice at the Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh in the dead­li­est at­tack on Jews in the U.S.

Stam­ford As­sis­tant Po­lice Chief Tom Wuen­ne­mann said the last anti-Semitic in­ci­dent in the city oc­curred in Au­gust 2017, when swastikas and other graf­fiti were dis­cov­ered spray painted on the walls of the Academy of In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy and En­gi­neer­ing on High Ridge Road.

One month ear­lier, a Stam­ford man used his own fe­ces to smear a swastika and a Star of David on a win­dow near the en­trance of the Rich Fo­rum Me­dia Cen­ter

on Atlantic Street.

Lt. Tom Scan­lon said of­fi­cers have been speak­ing to down­town busi­ness own­ers and ex­am­in­ing se­cu­rity videos. Po­lice have re­leased pic­tures of the sus­pect, but have not cap­tured an im­age of the per­son’s face.

Scan­lon said po­lice are also in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the swastikas were re­lated to the South Asian holiday of Di­wali, known as the fes­ti­val of lights, that ended Thurs­day. In re­li­gions like Hin­duism, the swastikas are drawn on doorsteps as a way of wel­com­ing peo­ple into their homes.

“We need to iden­tify who this per­son is and get an un­der­stand­ing of his back­ground and try to un­der­stand his mo­ti­va­tion be­fore we can get a de­fin­i­tive idea of the mean­ing of the draw­ings,” Scan­lon said. “Whether he was try­ing to cause alarm or whether there is a Di­wali con­nec­tion is rel­e­vant.”

Swami Bal­go­pal, founder of the Wil­ton Hindu Tem­ple, said the Hindu swastika is sim­i­lar to the Nazi sym­bol, but turned slightly and usu­ally in­cludes dots. Bal­go­pal said the swastikas drawn in Stam­ford ap­peared to be Nazi sym­bols.

Po­lice pres­ence has been in­creased down­town and of­fi­cers were sta­tioned Thurs­day night at the li­brary, which held the sev­enth an­nual Saul Co­henS­choke Jewish Fam­ily Ser­vice lec­ture.

Rabbi Daniel Cohen, of Con­gre­ga­tion Agu­dath Sholom, said it’s im­por­tant to bring the com­mu­nity to­gether.

“It’s an­other re­minder for all of us of the im­por­tance of build­ing bridges in our com­mu­nity,” Cohen said. “We need to rise above this di­vi­sive­ness…to fight the dark­ness and bring light.”

Con­trib­uted Photo / Stam­ford Po­lice Depart­ment

Stam­ford po­lice said swastikas were found on side­walks in down­town on Thurs­day.

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