Rabbi Yossi Lipsker with Essex District Attorney Paul Tucker. STEVEN A. ROSENBERG/JOURNAL STAFF

Swastika painted near Swampscott school; community holds vigil

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Swastika painted near Swampscott school; community holds vigil

Rabbi Yossi Lipsker with Essex District Attorney Paul Tucker. STEVEN A. ROSENBERG/JOURNAL STAFF

SWAMPSCOTT – More than 100 residents, Jew and gentile, stood side by side in the freezing rain last Thursday at a vigil to protest the painting of a swastika on a sidewalk – the second antisemitic incident to rock this seaside town since November.

On Jan. 6, police reported that a swastika had been painted on the sidewalk in the area of Redington Street and Forest Avenue, which is close to the Hadley Elementary School. “The swastika was spray painted with white paint on the sidewalk, along with a vehicle in the immediate area which had a white line painted down the side of it,” police said in a statement.

Police have asked neighborhood residents with home video cameras to review their footage between the hours of 2 and 6 p.m. on Jan. 6.

In early November, police were called to Swampscott High School after a swastika was texted to a large group of students. To date, there have been no arrests in that case.

According to police, evidence was recovered near where the swastika was painted this month that could help identify the person or persons involved.

“As we actively investigate this incident, we will continue to focus on the safety and the security of all in Swampscott. We join with the community to unequivocally condemn this act of antisemitism,” Swampscott Police Chief Ruben Quesada said in a statement.

On social media, the Anti-Defamation League said, “No community is immune from this insidious form of hate. We call on the community to join us in condemning this hate and assisting @SwampscottPD. Our collective response in calling out this act of hate can be a powerful message that antisemitism has no home in Swampscott.”

The rally, organized by Rabbi Yossi Lipsker who leads Chabad of the North Shore in Swampscott, was held in a gazebo across from Town Hall, just a short walk from where the swastika was found. It included remarks of solidarity from Rabbi Michael Ragozin of Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, Essex District Attorney Paul Tucker, Swampscott Police Detective Ted Delano, Swampscott Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald, state Representative Jenny Armini and the ADL New England Board member Melissa Kaplowitch.

Rabbi Michael Ragozin STEVEN A. ROSENBERG/JOURNAL STAFF

“Thank you so much for calling out hatred by your presence here today,” Lipsker said. “In this case, it is a specific hatred directed toward Jews. It is Jew hatred, no need to dance around what it is. I think calling it out is already something that puts us on the road to addressing it.”

He thanked the crowd for coming out on a rainy evening and for standing up for unity and against hate. He said that action and solidarity in the wake of hate reflects a strong community.

“You, my dear friends, standing here today – residents of Swampscott, Jews, members of the Christian and the Catholic faith, and the clergy that has gathered here today, you are the answer. You are the rule,” said Lipsker.

“Swastikas on a sidewalk is the exception and gathering here today is our way of saying we will never ever accept this as normal. We will come out here every day if we have to. This is not the new normal. This is hatred, and we will never rest until it rests.”

Rabbi Michael Ragozin thanked residents and law enforcement for supporting the Jewish community. “This is a town that has the backs of all people, that stands up for all human beings, for human dignity, and respect. Thank you Swampscott,” he said.

Swampscott Detective Ted Delano said police have made some progress in its investigation, and urged those with any information to contact law enforcement. He said police have been in touch with the Essex District Attorney’s office, the FBI and the ADL. He also said the town’s school department notified families about the swastika.

“Like all of you, I love the town of Swampscott. I look at Rabbi Michael [Ragozin] and Rabbi Lipsker as dear friends, and I share in their community’s hurt. When they hurt we all hurt. The police department, along with the community, will stand shoulder to shoulder with them,” Delano said.

“This is all about community,” added Essex District Attorney Paul Tucker. “It’s about standing together, and to me it’s about not being a bystander. It’s not looking at something, wishing things were different, it’s about taking action. It’s about showing up, it’s about being heard. It’s about showing people that we will not tolerate this.”

For Michelle Fine, who lives steps away from where the swastika was found, the incident brought back memories of her childhood in Skokie, Ill., where Nazis were thwarted in their attempt to march through the community. “I’m really disheartened that we’re still having this conversation. Here we are thinking that a lot of [educational] work was done after the Holocaust, and we said ‘Never Again.’ And it seems to have disappeared,” said Fine, who has lived in the town for 32 years. Θ

To report any information about this incident, residents are encouraged to call the Swampscott Police Department at 781-595-1111.

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