Close The Door On Hate
Not quite a year ago, the former proprietor of Rooster Wines & Liquors on South Main Street was found guilty and sentenced for the crimes of arson, endangerment, and fraud in connection with an incident at that liquor store in January of 2017. The matter also included false reporting of anti-Semitic slurs, and that initial report was enough to contribute to a sense of fear for those who identify as Jewish in our town. That the hate graffiti was swiftly exposed by detectives as having been the work of the proprietor himself, and that “hate crime” was not among the crimes with which he was charged, it nevertheless left our town with a sense of unease.
Hate could happen here.
It would be lovely to report that “Hate Has No Home Here,” as the organization of that name promotes, but the Adath Israel Synagogue violation this past Saturday reminds us that while hate may not have a home here in Newtown, there are haters trying to put a boot in the door.
Even as the Newtown Yoga Festival was underway at the Newtown Community Center, with dozens of participants embracing messages of love, we were hearing of messages of hate painted on the exterior of the synagogue. We are saddened and angered that there are those who feel emboldened to deface a house of worship with anti-Semitic graffiti. We wonder what kind of personality harbors this disrespect toward others; what cowards sneak about under the cover of darkness to express themselves? Deep down, they understand that their venomous opinions are not ones welcomed by most Americans. In a town that has chosen love over hate in the wake of horrific tragedy, these loathsome actions are particularly egregious.
Whether pathetic youths or hardened anti-Semitics, the repercussions for these perpetrators, when identified, must be decisive. Inciting fear through words or actions demands a just response, or we risk inviting others to chance that other despicable acts will not be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This is not a case of “mischief,” but a threat toward organizations or individuals targeted by misanthropes and racists.
Be alert to signs that someone is considering violence against themselves or others; small actions can lead to larger, more devastating outcomes. If you hear or see something amiss, report it. There is no shame in reacting out of concern for others.
That our police force is actively seeking the criminal(s) and ensuring the safety of the congregation of Adath Israel is some relief. We regret that despite this watchfulness, our friends and neighbors at Adath Israel may be looking over their shoulders, even as they pray for those who act against them.
The immediate response of First Selectman Dan Rosenthal to send town employees to assist in removing the graffiti from the synagogue exterior before congregants gathered for the Sabbath or Sunday’s open house previewing this congregation’s 100th anniversary is to be commended.
Newtown accepts all who travel the diverse roads of this world. We are on watch for our neighbors and support those who promote peaceful coexistence and work to see that due process is served when hate comes knocking.