A day after hundreds of people crowded into an auditorium at the Kings Bay Y in Brooklyn last week to unite against hate, 11 cars on the streets of nearby Midwood were painted with swastikas.
The Sabbath vandalism was the latest in a series of hate crimes in southern Brooklyn that has kept detectives busy and concerned elected officials and civic leaders.
But the spree has also produced a united front against bigotry from ethnic communities that peacefully coexist in the area.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, who organized the town hall meeting at the Y, noted that the packed audience included Jews, Christians, Asian Americans and African Americans.
"It was a great crowd, very diverse," said Weiner, whose Brooklyn and Queens district includes parts of Midwood. ìThey expressed their solidarity with one another and didn’t seem intimidated or scared but determined. They want this person caught and the book thrown at him."
No arrests had been made as of Tuesday in the swastika vandalism last week of 26 cars in mostly non-Jewish Marine Park that prompted the town hall meeting, nor in the latest attack in heavily Orthodox Midwood on Friday night or early Saturday.
The incidents are believed to have been carried out by different perpetrators, Weiner said, citing discussions with police.
The cars in Midwood, most of them in the vicinity of East 29th Street and Avenue L, were damaged on street-side windows, most likely by someone in a passing car. In Marine Park, the damage was mostly on trunks, probably inflicted by a pedestrian. Different colors of paint were used.
"We think it’s a copycat crime," said Chaim Deutsch, who runs a volunteer community patrol, Shomrim, in cooperation with the 63rd and 70th Precincts in Midwood. "We believe it’s a bunch of kids."
The Midwood vandalism comes on the heels not only of the similar Marine Park incident but of the attempted arson of a Sheepshead Bay synagogue the previous week and two other vandalism complaints by Jews in East Flatbush and Kensington.
In the summer of 2001, a teenager was charged with defacing several houses and a synagogue with swastikas and other hateful graffiti in Midwood.
Residents question whether these incidents represent a surge in anti-Semitic sentiment or simply delinquent behavior by angry, bored or troubled youths who can command a public outcry with their actions.
Local Jewish leaders see no sign of growing intolerance in south Brooklyn.
"This is a wonderful community and we will not allow individuals who are demented to destroy it," said Rabbi Melvin Burg of the Ocean Avenue Jewish Center in Sheepshead Bay and executive director of the Rabbinical Board of Flatbush. "Every ethnic group was represented at the town hall meeting. Everyone has traditionally gotten along."
Weiner said he was confident the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force was doing everything it could to find the vandals, but noted that "graffiti is one of the toughest crimes to crack." As a City Councilman, Weiner found a swastika painted on the door of his office in Sheepshead Bay.
The Anti-Defamation League has announced it would begin teaching the "World of Difference" bias-prevention program at Sheepshead Bay High School, not far from the sites of both swastika incidents.
The ADL also posted a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the vandalism, on top of various other awards offered by the police and elected officials. Those with information should call (800) 577-TIPS.
Elie Rubenstein, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Kings Bay, said he was concerned about the effect the wave of incidents would have on elderly Russian immigrants in the area. He was planning meetings to ease their fears.
"They are already facing a lot of cuts in programs from the government," said Rubenstein. "People feel terrified economically and need moral support. There are a lot of people who left [the former Soviet Union] because of anti-Semitism. We have to explain to newly arrived immigrants that this is not systematic."
Meanwhile, state Sen. Carl Kruger said this week he would propose legislation to further stiffen the penalties for painting hateful symbols. The state’s bias crime laws already have allowed for longer sentences for such crimes, but Kruger said those who carry out multiple acts of vandalism should face separate sentences for each act.