By Eric Heinz
Rabbi Mendel Slavin and the Chabad Jewish Center of San Clemente were recent targets of bigoted vandalism.
On Friday, Feb. 24, Slavin said one of his neighbor’s cars had swastikas, the symbol of the Nazi Party in World War II Germany, spray painted on his vehicle. Photos shown to the San Clemente Times confirmed these claims. The Chabad also had a mezuzah stolen from one of its doors. A mezuzah is a parchment scroll with a declaration of faith written on it.
“I want to believe it’s the work of either an ignorant or single hateful person. You would hope there’s no entity or group that would stand behind that,” Slavin said on Tuesday. “Some people conform to a single way of looking, and anyone who looks different (to them) can easily be singled out. Historically, whenever there were problems in a society, they would first blame minorities. It’s a reality and going on all over the world. Europe is seeing a major rise in anti-Semitism. I’m not sure if we’re seeing a rise of anti-Semitism in the U.S. It’s just stories like this are starting to come out. It still remains to be determined who’s behind the bomb threats and the cemetery (desecration).”
In the past few weeks, reports of desecrated Jewish cemeteries and vandalism with swastikas have been popping up throughout the U.S.
“There were swastikas on a car parked outside our residence, and the mezuzah that was on our door post was taken off,” Slavin said. “On it is written one of the passages from the bible that we put on every door post. The one that was taken was from Israel when we inaugurated the building.”
Slavin said he has not been able to find another locally, but he has contacted people in Israel.
He said neighbors and community members came by after the incident to show support.
“The thing that struck me and my wife is that the Jewish center is one place, but when it comes close to home, you worry for your children,” Slavin said. “I know this doesn’t represent our community at large because we’ve been here for 13 years and have only had good experiences, from the top of the city to anyone else we have ever met.”
Slavin said he hasn’t seen many other swastikas in town. He said the ones he had seen have been removed.
“The congregation for the most part wants to make sure that my family is safe and that the center is safe,” he said. “Most of them are adults. Kids may ask, but my kids know what goes on in the world, and they’re not blind to what’s happening. Our first goal is safety.”
Slavin said he has neither been contacted by police nor notified of an arrest or citation in the matters that took place in San Clemente.
“Such a thing shouldn’t happen to any group,” Slavin said. “I got a nice voicemail just a little while ago from somebody who didn’t leave his name, but he offered support. As a community, we have to stand up against any forms of hate. The lines get blurred sometimes between trying to enforce the law and crossing over into hatred. That’s a sad reality.”
Slavin said this could also be attributed to a “false flag” tactic—make one group look bad to support one’s cause.
“There’s a really good chance that this is not the work of racists and anti-Semitists in general. What’s going on could be the opposite,” Slavin said. “People who are not happy with the recent political outcome are trying to make the outcome look as bad as possible. One of the ways of doing that is to blame anti-Semitism. That’s even worse. It causes friction when there is none.”