Fabiola Santiago

July 29, 2014

Fabiola Santiago: Acts of vandalism against South Florida Jewish community leave stain of festering soul

Vandalism is the realm of that subspecies of humanity known as the bottom feeder.

Vandalism is the realm of that subspecies of humanity known as the bottom feeder.

The vandal hates, rages over what others have that he/she doesn’t – love, joy, voice, faith, community.

The vandal strikes, a prisoner to the darkness of his impotence – look at me, I hate you! Then, he hides, the quintessential amateur and coward.

Often times, the vandal does someone else’s dirty work (political operatives, sect followers, youth who inherit their parents’ hatreds, etc. etc.).

Acts of vandalism are despicable, but none more so than those directed at a people – a suffering people enduring trying times – as in the anti-Semitic spray-paintings of a synagogue in North Miami Beach, and over the weekend, the hate messages left on cars in Miami Beach.

Hate, it seems, is in the air.

Swastikas and “Hamas” were spray-painted Monday on the front pillars of Torah V’Emunah, an Orthodox synanogue at 1000 NE 174th St. And, in front of the home of an Orthodox family in Miami Beach’s Meridian Avenue over the weekend, a car was smeared with cream cheese spelling “Hamas” and “Jew.” Another car was egged.

These senseless, hateful acts against members of the Jewish community should be strongly condemned.

The cars’ defacing is being investigated by Miami Beach police as what it is: a hate crime. But strangely so, Miami-Dade police is treating the synagogue defacing as was initially reported by a crime watch patrol: criminal mischief.

But both are hate crimes, which in Florida carry harsher penalties than vandalism, and both, whether they’re related or not, should be treated as such.

In the age of surveillance cameras, where no act is too small to escape detection, who would risk committing such crimes – as childish as they’re grave – against a community, against a neighbor?

Police and community activists think the vandalism may be an extension of tensions stemming from the on-going conflict in the Middle East between Israeli and Palestinians, and the recent Gaza bombings that have claimed more than a thousand lives.

But South Florida is no stranger to international conflicts that resonate locally as if events were happening here.

This is a diverse community that has worked hard at giving everyone a respectful place at the communal table. This is supposed to be a safe place where people on both sides of this and many other conflicts – all just as emotionally powerful – can find resonance. It’s not unusual to see opposing demonstrations and people freely expressing points of view, most of the time, peacefully.

Those who usurp a political conflict to vandalize personal and community property are nothing but petty criminals with hate as their currency.

Their ultimate goal is to silence voices, to make people feel afraid and violated.

Police should not underestimate these crimes – and this community should insist on vigorous investigation and prosecution of the culprits.

To the vandals, I say this: People can pressure-clean cream cheese and egg yolks and paint over derogatory remarks.

But a rotten soul, if untreated, festers inside its owner forever.

The stain never rubs off.

Hate may be in the air, but ultimately, haters lose more than their targets. With a little luck and the help of a video camera, they might even get time to think about their acts in jail.


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