Jewish Communities on Edge After Anti-Semitic Vandalism

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said he thinks timing of crime is no coincidence

The early morning flames that engulfed three cars parked on a Brooklyn street in an area populated by Orthodox Jews have long been extinguished, but the hate manifested in the fire, swastikas and other Nazi symbols found nearby is spreading well past the Midwood neighborhood.

"They're scared," one passerby said of the Jews in Midwood, where the cars were torched late last week. "They're scared in this neighborhood. They're scared in Avenue N ... any place where the Jewish people are, they're scared."

Unknown vandals set the cars ablaze early Friday on Ocean Parkway near Avenue I. They spray-painted the letters "KKK" on a van, defaced four public benches with 16 swastikas and left other anti-Semitic messages on a sidewalk in the Midwood neighborhood before dawn on Friday.

Police have made no arrests.

Jewish people aren't the only ones feeling the impact of the crime.

"It hurts me. I'm a Greek, and it bothers me very much," one woman said. "I don't like this ... I don't know how you call it, I don't like it."

While police say they found 27 empty beer bottles near where the cars were torched and defaced, they are not treating the incident as some drunken prank. And neither are those who live nearby.

On Sunday, scores of protesters marched against the vandals, saying they were stunned by the level of violence and apparent hatred.

Protesters noted the attack occurred one day after the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, a series of attacks on Jews in Nazi Germany on Nov. 9-10, 1938.

"I am the child of a Holocaust survivor, and this makes me uncomfortable," said Judy Pfeffer, 62, a retired city education department employee who marched in Sunday's protest. "Even then, it was just vandalism. But it led to the Holocaust."

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said the timing of the crime was significant.

"It's committed within 48 hours of the anniversary of Kristallnacht, which is the beginning of the Holocaust, and when you consider that a very high percentage of Holocaust survivors live in Midwood, I don't think that it's a coincidence at all," Hynes said.

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