Sheriff’s investigators are trying to determine who painted swastikas and a hate-filled message on the windows of a Jewish book and gift shop.
The graffiti was found at YiddishKeit inside the Mission Bay Plaza at U.S. 441 and Glades Road, west of Boca Raton. There were four swastikas and a message that said, “Burn the Jews” drawn in white paint or shoe polish.
Similar messages were found on a Chrysler Voyager minivan in the shopping center parking lot. The car belonged to a florist in the shopping center who is not Jewish, sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera said. The florist was out of town when the incident happened, Barbera said.
Sheriff’s officials believe the vandalism happened between midnight and 8 a.m. Sunday. Barbera said a deputy patrolling the area shortly after 8 a.m. discovered the vandalism. Deputies collected DNA and fingerprints but so far have no suspects, she said.
Store owner Joseph Brooks said this was the second time this year he’s been the target of graffiti. He said in early March, vandals painted a small swastika on his window.
“I’m shocked and worried,” Brooks said. “Before it was a little thing. Now it’s the entire storefront. I’m very concerned about the escalation of this. I don’t know if it’s the same people.”
Brooks said he called the Sheriff’s Office last time and filed a report but no officers came. He removed the image.
He said some teens from B’nai B’rith, a community service organization, have agreed to remove the images today.
The images have disturbed members of the county’s large Jewish community. Rick Alovis, president of Temple Beth Shira, west of Boca Raton, stopped by to look at the vandalism.
“You can’t stand there and see those things in the windows without being shocked and outraged,” he said. “It’s just a bad commentary on the intolerance of the world.”
Bill Gralnick, regional director of the American Jewish Committee, said he suspects kids committed the vandalism. He said vandalism, including that which is racist and anti-Semitic, increases as the end of the school year nears. The last day for students is May 31.
Roberta Clark, associate regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said her group will provide any assistance needed to the store owner and law enforcement.
“We strongly condemn what happened and are concerned about the message it sends,” she said.
A study released last month by the ADL showed that anti-Semitic hate crimes in Florida have been increasing.
The annual ADL audit reported 199 anti-Semitic incidents in the state last year, up from 173 the year before, 102 in 2003 and 93 in 2002. Last year in South Florida, there were reports of anti-Semitic graffiti painted on a synagogue in Homestead; mezuzahs, which are traditional Jewish parchment scrolls, removed from the doorposts of private homes in Boca Raton; a swastika drawn on a public sidewalk in Boynton Beach and anti-Semitic graffiti painted on a gas station in Tamarac.