Reward Offered In Hillcrest Hate Crimes – QNS.com

Reward Offered In Hillcrest Hate Crimes

Councilmen James Gennaro and David Weprin are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the perpetrators responsible for three anti-Semitic hate crimes that took place over the Passover holiday, they announced Sunday during a press conference on the steps of the Hillcrest Jewish Center.
The incidents currently being investigated by the NYPDs Hate Crimes Task Force involve two cars that were found with swastikas etched into the windows between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning in Hillcrest. The first car, marked on the passengers side, was parked on 164th Street. The second car, marked on the drivers side, was sitting on 69th Avenue.
The third incident was reported on the morning of April 18 in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Hillcrest where a swastika, along with the words "All Jews Must Die," was discovered on the garage door belonging to an Orthodox Jewish family. Councilman Weprin provided a photograph of the house at the press conference that showed a mizzuzah on the upper right hand corner of the garage.
The general sentiment among observers on Sunday was that the incidents were unusual for the neighborhood of Hillcrest, which has a heavy Orthodox Jewish population. But according to residents of Hillcrest and surrounding neighborhoods, anti-Semitic hate crimes do occur and the police seem to have little idea who are behind them.
As a result, Weprin and Gennaro are furnishing $2,500 each to help facilitate the investigative process. If caught, the assailants will be charged with criminal mischief and making graffiti and could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to the Queens DAs office. Flanked by Congressman Anthony Weiner, Senator Toby Stavisky, as well as religious leaders including rabbis, priests, imams, and leaders from the South Asian community, the councilmen denounced the crimes and vowed retribution for whomever was responsible.
"Were appalled," Weprin said. "This is not just an attack on the Jewish community but its an attack on the Queens community in general. We denounce the vile people who perpetrated this crime, and I can assure you that our reaction is not going to be to hold hands and pray and to sing songs. We are going to take action against these acts. We will be looking for you and we will find you."
Manny Behar, the executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council, stressed the necessity for Jews to take action against anti-Semites. He drew parallels between the recent hate-crimes in Hillcrest and what took place in Nazi Germany, submitting that Jews during the Holocaust offered little resistance. Today, such a reaction would be unacceptable, he said.
"These hate crimes bring back memories of a place that we thought we had already left behind, where windows are broken and swastikas are drawn," he said. "During the Holocaust, Jewish communities were too weak. They were either active accomplices or they would silently acquiesce. Today, we are shoulder to shoulder with people in the community who are fighting against the same feeling of fear. We should proceed from a base of strength."
The imam of the Jamaica Muslim Center, Shamsul Arefin, encouraged those in attendance to maintain their faith in God and to have confidence in the police that they would catch the perpetrators. But there were those listening who withheld their optimism because they were still waiting for the police to solve their own crimes.
Six months ago, someone engraved a large swastika into the snow-covered driveway of Rabbi Auman Richard of Hillcrest and let air out of his cars tires. He was happy that the politicos had called the press conference, but he bristled at the suggestion that what took place during Passover were isolated incidents. "Im appalled that this is still going on," he said. "The [police departments] bias unit keeps looking into the crimes but they havent found anything."
David Reich, a chief of staff of Senator Seymour Lachman and a future candidate for City Council, was also the victim of a hate crime in the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Kew Gardens Hills where he lives. A few months ago he found swastikas etched into the snow-caked windows of his car and on his lawn. He said that young Jewish kids in his neighborhood have been harassed and called racial slurs despite increased security at the schools, the result of 9/11.
"The criminals who do these things are very difficult to catch," he said. "They dont do it in the open. When I saw the swastikas I was upset but I was glad that there was no physical damage done to my vehicle. But now Ive experienced anti-Semitism firsthand. I know what its about."
Ervin Plaszner, who stood quietly with his wife during the proceedings Sunday knows anti-Semitism probably better than anyone else who was present. His parents and sister were murdered in Aushwitz. Plaszner was also a prisoner in a concentration camp but managed to escape.
"In 2003, this should not happen," said Plaszner, a resident of Jamaica Estates. "The hate never stops. What happened is a reminder of the Holocaust."
His wife, Terry, lamented on the sparse audience that turned out on Sunday.
"This shouldnt be happening in our own little community," she said. "There is strength in unity. Im disappointed that more people didnt show up today. There is strength in numbers."

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