Police have arrested a man suspected of vandalizing a synagogue with anti-Semitic messages and slurs, the latest incident in “a spike” of hate crimes against the city’s Jewish community, according to the NYPD.
James Polite, 26, wrote the hateful messages, which included “Jews better be ready” and “Hitler,” in black marker on the walls inside the Union Temple of Brooklyn in Prospect Heights on Thursday, cops said. Another epithet called for the death of Jews and used a hateful historic comparison to vermin.
The NYPD released a surveillance image Friday of the suspect in the stairwell of the building, which is on Eastern Parkway, near the Grand Army Plaza. Late Friday night, the NYPD said Polite, of Brooklyn, had been arrested and charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime and making graffiti.
Mayor Bill de Blasio thanked police for their efforts "and for sending a clear message that anti-Semitism and hate have no place in our city."
A political event hosted by “Broad City” actress Ilana Glazer was supposed to take place in the building Thursday night, but it was canceled after the messages were found, state Senate candidate Andrew Gounardes said. Gounardes, journalist Amy Goodman and Jim Gaughran, another State Senate candidate, were scheduled to speak at the event.
“Tonight’s attack, right here in a temple in Brooklyn — is a painful reminder that anti-Semitism and prejudice are alive and well in our own community,” Gounardes said on Thursday. “I commend the NYPD for their quick response and believe whoever committed this hate crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Glazer said the event was meant to turn stories and conversations into action, but instead the group received a stark lesson on how anti-Semitism can halt progress.
"But they won’t stop us from communicating, canvassing, and voting," Glazer said in an emailed statement. "We will continue to learn, organize, and act and make this country as safe for as many people as possible."
Speaking at an unrelated event on Friday afternoon, de Blasio condemned the graffiti as a “horrible act of hate.”
“It’s deeply disturbing to all New Yorkers. It’s something we don’t accept here in this city,” the mayor said while campaigning on behalf of Assembly candidate Simcha Eichenstein in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
The anti-Semitic messages appeared less than a week after 11 people were killed in a shooting inside a Pittsburgh synagogue. They also are part of a recent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes across the city, Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said at an unrelated news conference Friday.
“We’ve had a spike in anti-Semitic reported crimes in the last 28-30 days or so,” he said. “Most of it is this type of activity: Graffiti or a message scrawled on a door or a stoop or a bus stop or a train.”
De Blasio also acknowledged the heightened sense of vulnerability the city’s Jewish community is feeling in the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting, and promised that the NYPD will do everything it can to make people feel safe.
“I want all New Yorkers to know and all the members of the Jewish community in this city to know we will protect you,” he said. “We have the finest police force in the United States, and in the whole world, focused on making sure that in this painful moment the Jewish community is secure. And all of us are committed to the protection of the community.”
On Wednesday, Swastikas and racial slurs were found on a home in Brooklyn Heights, police said. No suspects were identified as of Friday.
As of Oct. 28, there were 290 hate crimes this year, up slightly from the 288 recorded in 2017, NYPD statistics show. Of this year’s crimes, 142 were anti-Semitic, a 12.7 percent increase from the same time period last year.
With Alison Fox and Lauren Cook