HomeExaminerExaminer NewsOfficials must speak out when acts of hate are committed

Officials must speak out when acts of hate are committed

By Mark Rosman
Staff Writer

New Jersey municipalities, which have a combined population of about 516,000 Jews, continue to be a target for individuals who commit anti-Semitic acts such as spray painting swastikas on various properties. Unfortunately, in some cases the perpetrators are never caught and punished for their actions.

Make no mistake about the purpose of these incidents: the swastika, which is the symbol of Nazi Germany’s reign of terror during the late 1930s through the mid-1940s, is meant to evoke fear. It is a statement which says, “We don’t want you here.”

The response from local officials to incidents that target people of a specific race or religion should always be quick and strong condemnation of the acts.

Unfortunately, an anti-Semitic incident that occurred in Manalapan in September 2012 has never been solved. Unknown individuals spray painted swastikas throughout the Monmouth Heights development – which for years was home to the largest Jewish population in the municipality. Was the vandalism random? I cannot say for sure, but it certainly was an odd coincidence.

Susan Cohen, who was Manalapan’s mayor in 2012 and is still a member of the Township Committee, condemned the actions of the vandals when she said, “Anything that is targeted against any group is intolerable. As a Jew, I am appalled that people still feel this way.”

When Cohen was asked if she thought that the individual or individuals who painted the swastikas throughout Monmouth Heights did so to incite violence against others, she said, “If it was done by kids, no. If it was done by adults, yes. We just don’t know who it is at this time. …

“Our police department and the prosecutor’s office are working diligently to bring this matter to a quick resolution. I am very proud of how everyone involved reacted to this terrible situation.”

This year, in late August, unknown individuals spray painted swastikas at various locations in Echo Lake Park in Howell. The crime remains under investigation.

Asked by a Greater Media Newspapers reporter for a comment, Howell Mayor Bill Gotto said he was “precluded from commenting” while the investigation into the Echo Lake Park vandalism was in progress.

When I read that response, my immediate thought was “What’s up with that answer?”

What does a police investigation have to do with the mayor of a municipality condemning a hurtful and shameful act?

I would respectfully suggest that an appropriate response from an elected official to an incident such as the recent one in Howell should take this form: “The people who committed this act are to be condemned for bringing this type of hatred into our community.

“This is a community where people of all races and religions live, work, pray and play together. Incidents such as what occurred at Echo Lake Park will not be tolerated here.

“I can assure you that our police department is taking this matter very seriously and is working hard to identify the individuals who are responsible for what took place at Echo Lake Park.”

In my opinion, a statement such as that from an elected official would not compromise an investigation. The statement would make it clear that a hateful act directed at any group will not be accepted.

The “I can’t comment” comment we received from the mayor after Echo Lake Park was vandalized was baffling and a bit disconcerting.

Mark Rosman is a managing editor with Greater Media Newspapers. He may be reached at gmntnews@gmnews.com


Mark Rosman is a managing editor with Greater Media Newspapers. He may be reached at gmntnews@gmnews.com


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