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Doylestown Vandalism Outside Jewish Owned Business Inspires Good Deed

Sometimes, a bad action brings about a good one.

Someone painted anti-Israel graffiti on Doylestown borough sidewalks Sunday, including two messages in front of Siren Records, a Jewish-owned store.

“Instantly, I was very sad,” said Heidi K., manager of the music shop. “Then I was a little confused. It was so misplaced. And I was trying to figure out who could have done it and why they did it there.  I was worried that they did it because this was a Jewish-owned and Jewish-run business.

“But later, it was brought to my attention there were other pieces of graffiti matching that in other places around the vicinity of the store, as well,” she said.

She called the police, and they took a report, she said. The shop had been a target of antisemitic vandalism twice before in recent months, she said.

When the phone rang, she was looking into how to clean paint off of concrete.

Joshua Roberts, a Holland chiropractor, offered to come over and clean it off.

“The whole thing started with my wife [Jennifer],” said Roberts. “She sent me a picture on Facebook about the vandalism.”

He decided to help and called the store.

“Heidi picked up the phone,” said Roberts. “She was very upset and told me that this had happened before. She sounded just heartbroken.”

“I’m a business owner myself,” said Roberts. He knew someone who had a power washer that he could borrow.

“I said, ‘Listen, I got a buddy who’s got a power washer. I’ll be over, and I’ll take care of it for you.’”

So, Roberts jumped into action and, with his oldest daughter, Sydney, 22, to help, brought the power washer to the record shop to clean off the graffiti.

“It was not that big of a deal,” he said, downplaying his act of kindness.

But all the time, he was thinking of his late mother, Judith Roberts. It’s been two years since she passed away.

“She was a big proponent of Israel,” said Roberts. “And I thought this would be a good, it’s called a ‘mitzvah.’ It’s a good mitzvah for my mom and myself, my daughter, and whoever else. But it’s no big deal.”

But it was a big deal for Heidi K.

“About a half hour later, he came over with his lovely daughter,” she said. “And he was wearing his Israel Defense Forces T-shirt. And we got everything hooked up. I poured some Simple Green slime over the two spots, and we got to work.”

When Heidi put up a picture of Josh Roberts helping clean off the graffiti on her Instagram account, someone commented, “Free Palestine.”

“A young girl,” said Heidi. “The girlfriend of somebody we know through kids, like six degrees of separation.”

“I love art,” she said. “I like graffiti art. But this is not right. It’s not the right place. And perhaps these young people feel this is a safe place to express their views. But even if you like the politics of it, this is costing us money. And it’s causing a stir in the community. And it’s making people question where Siren Records, as a business, stands. And it’s making people think we’re taking a stand. If they think that it was sanctioned by us, that’s not what we do.”

“We wouldn’t deface our own sidewalks,” said Heidi. “So, it’s certainly not appreciated.”

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Outpouring of Support for Main Line Synagogue Hit By Antisemitic Vandalism

What began as two acts of antisemitic vandalism led to a supportive community gathering at Temple Beth Hillel/Beth El in Wynnewood Monday evening.

About 1,000 people, some carrying Israeli flags or “United against Antisemitism” signs, packed the sanctuary and overflowed into a nearby room.

“We are not worried that bad things are going to happen,” said Rabbi Ethan Witkovsky. “Our biggest concern is that bad things are going to happen and that no one else will care. As we look around at this room, we know that is not the case.”

Christian and Muslim clergy came to support the Jewish congregation, as well as elected officials.

“We truly live our motto of ‘Our house, your home,’” said TBHBE President Josh Kohn. Since he got a phone call telling him about the swastika painted on their sign, he’s had dozens of phone calls. “We’ve all experienced a wide range of emotions. Many of us are angry. Many of us are sad. Many are confused and frustrated at the kind of world we live in…Many of us are scared, as well, worried that minor physical damage could lead to much more.”

On a recent visit to Israel, he discovered that the Israelis he talked to were optimistic. One survivor of the brutal Hamas Oct. 7 attack told him, “We will dance again.”

The synagogue hosted the Overbrook Presbyterian Church in the wake of a fire and the pastor, the Rev. Adam Hearlson, spoke.

“We are here as neighbors, as people bound by the common commandment to love your neighbor…We stand with you in this time,” he said.  “We have a common cause of peace and love and joy, to sing together, to live together.”

Witkovsky said the swastika was meant to “make us afraid.”

“The swastika may have been painted on our property, but it hurts the entire community. It hurts to see the symbol, which, for many of us, has existed only on old photos from a horrible time…We worry, maybe those times are upon us again,” said Witkovsky.  There is a feeling “in the pit of our stomachs” that “something is happening to the Jewish people in our country.”

“Antisemitic acts have been increasing across our country for years. We worry we’re no longer welcome in this land,” he said. But after two generations “of the most peace and prosperity our people have known anywhere, we worry that this swastika, sprayed on a banner, means we’re doomed to go back to a world of swastikas again.”

“We can’t allow the terrible thing this stands for back into our world,” said Witkovsky. But the world is now different from that of “those grainy photographs.” Jews no longer fear the government, and “non-Jews around us have reached out,” he said.

He urged the audience to “fight hatred in all of its forms wherever it’s found.”

“Know you have an ally in us, and we’re thankful to have an ally in you,” he said.

“To the Jews who are here in the room, what is different from past eras of antisemitism? Today, ultimately, each person here, by dint of being alive in this time and this place, each of you has more power and agency in your lives than the rabbis of the past ever imagined was possible,” said Witkovsky. “Each of us has a phenomenal ability to stand up for ourselves, thank God. And we bear the responsibility of that power, to stand up when someone says something, when someone paints something, when someone does something.”

“There is antisemitism around us, to be sure, and it seems to be getting worse or bolder,” he said. “But it is up to us to use the resources we have to stand up for ourselves and each other.”

Ranita Thomas, a TBHBE vice president, told DVJournal she believes there has always been antisemitism, but Oct. 7 and the ensuing war against Hamas have allowed “people to be overt.”

“People are using Oct. 7 as permission to be more antisemitic,” she said. “A lot  of people who have jumped on the Free Palestine bandwagon are truly antisemitic. They feel it’s justified to say what they’re saying now.”

Vandalized sign at Temple Beth Hillel/Beth El.

Adam Ehrlich, also a TBHBE vice president, told DVJournal, “I think it feels more visceral. It feels like large parts of the world are against us. If something like this (terror attack) happened anywhere else, the world would be rallying around a lot more.”

Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia President Michael Balaban attended the gathering at TBHBE.

The federation “strongly condemns the disturbing antisemitic vandalism that occurred at Temple Beth Hillel – Beth El (Sunday). As antisemitism continues to rise nationally and locally, we must work together as a community to make it clear that hate has no place here. We stand with Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El as they address this vandalism while continuing their critical work to unify the Wynnewood Jewish community through prayer, inclusion, and love.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro on X: This is the second message I’ve written like this in as many days. It’s two too many. Antisemitism and the vandalism of a house of worship of any kind have no place in this Commonwealth. I’ve spoken to Rabbi Witkovsky and told him we stand with his wonderful congregation and against hate. PSP is coordinating with our law enforcement partners to apprehend the person(s) responsible. These acts of hate will never change the fact that no matter what you look like, where you come from, who you love, or who you do and don’t pray to, you belong here in Pennsylvania.”

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery) said on X: “Sickened to see this hateful desecration of a synagogue — and on Easter no less. Antisemitism has no place in Montco or this country. No one should be using nazi symbols in 2024. We must find the people responsible and hold them accountable for this dangerous display of hate.”

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Narberth Rallies for Nana’s Kitchen After Anti-Israel Graffiti Hit

When the Jewish owners of Nana’s Kitchen in Narberth found their building had been hit with graffiti reading “Free Gaza,” it was angering and disturbing. But the reaction from the community since then?

“It was amazing,” said Lee Senderowitsch.

“I think it was the silver lining of the whole really terrible situation. Seeing graffiti on a Jewish-owned restaurant, I think, triggers many, if not all, Jewish people and human beings in general. And yet, the response to the hate was a lot of outpouring of support and love that made us feel really good,” she said.

“We are backed up and that we’re part of a really strong and powerful and beautiful Jewish community.”

Around 300 people came and stood outside the restaurant on Sunday to demonstrate against antisemitism and offer the owners their support.

“We saw different people from Orthodox, Conservative and Reform or secular and non-Jewish people — all standing together against hate,” said Senderowitsch. “And that was very powerful.”

Eitan Horn

After her mother saw the graffiti on Thursday and reported it to the police, she could not scrub it off. The borough’s public works department came out to help, and the Narberth police are investigating.

Unfortunately, a camera did not show the culprit or culprits, said Senderowitsch, one of Gladys Fink Senderowitsch’s four daughters. They help with the family-run business. Their father, Maxi Senderowitsch, died seven years ago, she said.

The family lived in Argentina, immigrated to Israel, then came to the U.S. about 20 years ago.

The graffiti hit Senderowitsch’s family even harder because their adopted relatives, Brothers Iair Horn, 44, and Eitan Horn, 37,  are among the hostages kidnapped and held by Hamas in Gaza after the Oct. 7 terror attack.

“They are very dear to us,” said Senderowitsch.

Iair Horn

There are about 100 hostages, including five Americans, currently being held by Hamas.

The Senderowitsch family learned the brothers were still alive in November when some of the other hostages who were held with them were released. But since then, there has been no word.

“We really do want to use the spotlight to speak about them,” said Sendrowitsch. “If we feel the way we feel from this vandalism, it puts it in perspective as to how our people in Israel are feeling with the hostages and the families of those who perished.”

Nana’s is a kosher vegetarian restaurant, she said.

“Our goal is to be inclusive,” she said. They provide food to various Jewish schools in the area, and one of their kitchens at a school serves meat. They serve a combination of “homey” Israeli and Argentinian food.

The Jewish Federation of Philadelphia has been working with the family and local legislators to raise awareness for the hostages, the organization said on its Facebook page. “Please patronize Nana’s Kitchen in Narberth or visit to support this family and fight back against this vile act of antisemitism.”

Senderowitsch said, “Our hearts are very full, and at the same time, we feel so very sad and heartbroken.”

Anyone with information about the vandals is asked to contact Sgt. Michael Vernacchio at [email protected].

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Update: Large Mastriano Sign Vandalized in Kennett Township

For years, Geoff Gamble allowed the Republican Party to put campaign signs on a triangle of land he owns at the busy intersection of Kaolin, Chandler’s Mill, and Bucktow roads in Kennett Township.

This year there was a problem.

A large, four-foot-by-eight-foot sign valued at $300 promoting GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano was recently vandalized.

“It was an expensive sign,” said Gamble, a Republican and a Kennett Township supervisor. “For 36 years we’ve let the Republicans put signs there. The Democrats usually put their signs across the street. The only other time there was trouble was when former President Trump ran.

“People who didn’t like him destroyed the sign once or twice but it wasn’t a huge sign,” he said.  And once, one of Gamble’s supporters took down a sign that belonged to an opponent and he told her to put it back. “I find that reprehensible,” he said.

“That’s just not the way you convince the public to vote for you,” said Gamble.

When the large Mastriano sign was installed, Eric Matuszak, vice chair of the local Democratic committee complained to the township, said William R. Borton, Republican Area 17 vice chair and a Kennett Township committeeman.

However, township police checked and found the sign did not block drivers’ views and permitted it to stay on the triangle.

Shortly afterward, vandals destroyed it.

Gamble wrote to Mutuszak, “So I guess that if you cannot get rid of signs lawfully, the next action in your playbook is to have one of your associates vandalize it?  Whoever did this is guilty of trespass and destruction of private property. I consider such activity shameful and juvenile, and it contributes to the crime and lawlessness currently plaguing our commonwealth and our country.”

In an email to Gamble, Matuszak denied that he caused the vandalism.

“I had nothing to do with this wanton example of vandalism.  Maybe there shouldn’t have been a large TARGET on the banner, perhaps? Exercising my First Amendment Rights.”

Matuszak did not respond to the Delaware Valley Journal’s request for comment.

Borton said that when the GOP replaces the sign, it will include lights and cameras to catch anyone who might try to vandalize it again.

In the meantime, Gamble said, Democrats had the audacity to put signs for Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman in the same spot that once held the damaged Doug Mastriano sign. He removed them.

 

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