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Newton gathers Sunday to condemn swastika incidents

Posted November 22, 2008 04:39 PM

After swastikas were discovered outside two separate places of worship over the course of the same week, Newton community and religious leaders plan to gather Sunday to condemn an apparent outbreak of hate crimes.

Last Saturday, congregants assembling for weekly services at Temple Shalom discovered a large swastika spray painted onto an outdoor sign. Rabbi Eric Gurvis condemned the graffiti from the pulpit and called the incident a hate crime.

On Wednesday night, a police officer discovered a swastika scrawled onto the curb outside of Eliot Church. Though the drawing was just four inches in diameter and appeared to be faded, Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker, a spokesman for the Newton Police Department, said police were thoroughly investigating the apparent hate crime.

“We'll give 110 percent, the same as we would something that was 100 feet tall,” he said.

Police said the incidents at Temple Shalom and Eliot Church do not appear to be connected.

Hate crimes in Newton have more than doubled this year, Apotheker said earlier. The graffiti outside Eliot Church was the 16th case reported this year; compared to six cases that were reported in 2007.

A congregant of the Second Church in Newton and the New England Anti-Defamation League are offering a $4,000 reward for anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the graffiti discovered at Temple Shalom last Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.

City and religious leaders, including Mayor David B. Cohen, Derrek Shulman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of New England, Newton police and local religious leaders, are expected to gatherer outside Temple Shalom, at 175 Temple St., Sunday at 12:15 p.m. to speak out against hate crimes.

“It’s been a really nice interfaith outpouring of condemnation of this act,” said Jennifer Smith, the associate regional director for the Anti-Defamation League of New England. “The thing important is that [when] these things happen, they have to be taken seriously.”

Reverend Anthony Kill, who has been pastor of Eliot Church for the past 14 years, said yesterday he would not be able to attend today's interfaith gathering. Instead, he said he will address what he sees as societal changes in the wake of the election of the nation’s first black president at his church’s annual Thanksgiving Sunday service.

“I think the very fact there has been an increase [in hate crimes] says it is a last ditch effort,” he said at his home Saturday. “Obviously the nation isn’t buying this anymore.”

-- Matt Collette

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