Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore Cantor Eric Schulmiller, on Friday evening, Aug. 31, was alerted to a swastika spray-painted in red on the outdoor office door by one of the temple's congregants who is a Holocaust survivor. Schulmiller, together with the executive director Sylvia Jacobs, after surveying the damage, called the police who patrolled the grounds during Friday services and then remained until around midnight.
Rabbi Jodie Siff related how, returning to the synagogue around 6 a.m. Saturday morning, there was considerably more damage, more hateful graffiti and broken windows. Along with scrawled derogatory messages against Jews, the perpetrators left their signature "tag" symbol, according to police, one associated with a group of neo-Nazis operating from Texas. In addition to the damage at the Reconstructionist Synagogue police confirmed similar vandalism at six or seven other locations including Munsey Park Elementary School, Roslyn High School and private homes in Roslyn Estates.
The hierarchy of the Reconstructionist Synagogue, at 1001 Plandome Road in Manhasset, convened on Saturday, Sept. 1 to determine how best to proceed. Siff stated they informed the Anti -Defamation League, newspapers, and the Manhasset Clergy Association, a group of local clergy. "Jimmy Only is the head of that fabulous organization," Siff said, "and they have always provided support. The organization has always made us feel welcome, feel a part of the community." The hateful vandalism, she noted, "Was a shock to us." Rabbi Siff also noted Pastor Only preached on the incident from the pulpit on Sunday, Sept. 2 and the synagogue received a note from one of the congregants of the Congregational Church expressing sympathy over the incident and enclosing a donation to help with repairs. Pastor Only also suggested letters be sent to the Manhasset Press, Port Washington News, Newsday and The New York Times because "we cannot remain silent in the face of this attack."
Rabbi Jodi Siff said she believed "It is important to see the incident, defacing property for whatever reason, not as anti-Semitic, but as a crime against any person or group of persons.
On Sept. 1, police arrested John Rocissano, 20, of Manhasset, and Matthew Felicetti, 17, of Floral Park in connection with the crime.
Monday, Sept. 10 three members of the synagogue, along with Rabbi Jodi Siff and Rabbi Lee Friedlander met with Manhasset Superintendent of Schools Charlie Cardillo to discuss how best to help the community deal with the atypical hate crime. Cardillo commented, "We are all one family and when an incident like this occurs it impacts all of us and we all take on that feeling of despair. From a community standpoint we share in the outreach and the outrage when these types of events occur." Cardillo said it is within the nature of organizations, of the school, synagogue and community, to heighten awareness of sensitivity and tolerance, and each make a concerted effort to reach out to each other in moments such as this and work through it in a collective manner.
Nassau County detectives urge individuals with information about this vandalism or suspicious activity in the future to call them at 800-244-TIPS. All calls remain anonymous.