It’s scary to think that the recent vandalism of headstones in Victoria’s historic Emanu-El Jewish Cemetery is the targeted work of pro-Nazi hatemongers rather than the ignorance of misguided youth.
But the nature of the anti-Semitic graffiti — one headstone was defaced with the scrawl “Jewish scum” — along with the seditious use of swastikas and the white-power symbol, has prompted the police to elevate the New Year’s Eve vandalism spree to the disturbing status of hate crime.
Although I find it hard to believe that a group of neo-Nazi skinheads decided to celebrate the unwrapping of a new calendar by idiotically taking paint and markers to desecrate a graveyard — when it comes to this level of brainlessness, nothing really surprises me.
It’s a pity the perpetrators weren’t likely in attendance at the Sunday afternoon vigil that brought more than 1,000 people out to the province’s oldest Jewish burial grounds. If they had, they might have learned why the swastika is such a hated symbol around the world for people of all faiths. The Nazis didn’t play favourites. Sure, Hitler had a particular hate on for Jews, gypsies and homosexuals, but that didn’t slow him down when it came to killing anyone who wouldn’t bow down and kiss his ass. Ask anyone from Poland, Great Britain, France, Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Serbia, the Soviet Union, Belgium, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg or anyone outside his inner circle of loyal sadists.
In fact, chances are virtually guaranteed that whoever vandalized Emanu-El is related to someone that Hitler’s army tried to conquer or kill.
And that’s just one of the reasons that so many people showed up at Sunday’s vigil. In a show of unity, people of all faiths, skin colour, gender and sexual orientation stood together to say in essence: if you hate my neighbour, you must hate me.
Or, as Rabbi Harry Brechner put it so eloquently, “All of us coming out here and standing together tells us that we will not be silent in the face of a hate crime.”
None of us can afford to be silent. Hatred is a head-sprouting Hydra that, like Hitler, will look for any weakness in order to fuel its rage. It will find any excuse to single one out: religion, ethnicity, hair colour or even the width of your nose.
When the vandals are caught — and I’m hoping they are youths rather than an organized group of uneducated supremacists — it’s important that they be made to understand exactly how dangerous their ignorance is.
If they had been at the vigil they would have heard the stories that we can never afford to forget. They would have also felt the love, something that I can only guess must be missing from their own lives. M