A swastika surfaces in Greece, as the White House unveils antisemitism strategy
Kristi Reisch visited Beverly Pappas Park in Greece with her two children on Thursday when she spotted a swastika and “KKK” symbol scrawled in black marker on the playground welcome sign.
Her first reaction: “Horror.” Her second: To alert town officials and members of the media.
“It makes me feel like nowhere is safe for marginalized communities,” she said. “It makes me fear for the messages that all people will get when they see that sign.”
She discovered the symbols around the same time that the Biden administration released the country’s first national strategy for combatting antisemitism, calling on government, law enforcement, and schools to crack down on hate.
“It’s on all of us to stop it,” President Joseph Biden said in a video announcement. “We say clearly and forcefully that antisemitism and all forms of hate and violence have no place in America. Silence, silence is complicit.”
The number of reported antisemitic incidents in the United States last year was the highest since the Anti-Defamation League began keeping track in 1979. The Jewish advocacy group counted 3,697 incidents throughout the country in 2022 — a 36% rise from the year before.
The count, released in March, was a fresh indication that antisemitism is on the rise, a trend that has been reflected in American culture and has caused alarm in Jewish communities.
More than half of the incidents recorded by the ADL were categorized as harassment, but there were 111 incidents of assault. About a third of the instances were listed as vandalism, such as what was found in the park in Greece.
Within an hour of Reisch reporting what she found, police officers were on the scene.
Greece Police Chief Michael Wood, who was there, declined to comment other than to say that the incident was being taken seriously and investigated.
The arrival of the police officers was followed by a town worker, who first attempted to remove the sign. After he was unable to do so, the symbols were washed off, and by Friday were barely perceptible.
Meredith Dragon, the chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, issued a brief written statement.
“We are disturbed by yet another incident in our community and we appreciate the Greece Police Department taking this seriously as they engage in a full investigation,” Dragon said.
The imagery in Greece was the latest in a string of similar discoveries around Rochester in recent years.
Fliers directing people to a white supremacist website have been distributed in Brighton and Pittsford. Racist graffiti was carved into a desk in a Pittsford school. Swastikas and “KKK” were painted on the side of an apartment complex and church in Fairport.
Reisch praised the swift response to the matter in Greece.
Whether the vandalism was orchestrated by a hate group or committed by youngsters who may have been unaware of the significance of their antics was equally troubling to Reisch.
“If this was just kids being quote-unquote being stupid, unaware of the atrocities committed under the symbolism of the KKK and the swastika, it shows me that it’s all the more important that we provide education to our children, our community members,” she said.
“When we don’t know what these symbols mean, we are much more likely to allow that symbolism to become normalized and to become dominant.”