Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca and South Orange Village President Sheena Collum acknowledged an increase in incidents of anti-Semitism and intolerance in the two towns tonight in a statement expressing outrage over anti-Semitic graffiti found in South Mountain Reservation this morning.
“Hatred and bigotry against any group and in any form are unacceptable,” the statement read. “We, the elected leaders of South Orange and Maplewood, are united in speaking firmly and clearly against the rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and misogyny in our country and within our communities.”
The statement, signed by DeLuca and Collum, along with elected officials of both towns, continued, “In our two towns we embrace our neighbors and are proud that people of different ethnic, racial, religious and cultural backgrounds and sexual orientation are living and thriving together. We deplore the recent acts of vandalism in South Mountain Reservation, which was primarily anti-Semitic but more far-reaching. Hate and hate symbols go against everything our two towns stand for. We will work with law enforcement officials so that those responsible are apprehended and punished.”
Maplewood Township Committee members Nancy Adams (Deputy Mayor), India Larrier, Greg Lembrich and Frank McGehee signed the statement, as did South Orange Trustees Howard Levison, Mark Rosner, Deborah Davis Ford, Steve Schnall, Walter Clarke and Jeff Dubowy.
The local elected officials joined U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (NJ-10) and local rabbis and cantors in decrying the incident. Local residents also had organized a vigil at the site of the graffiti this evening. (Read more here.)
The Essex County Park Department removed the graffiti quickly earlier in the day.
The statement from town officials concluded, “With broadening threats to Jewish institutions nationwide, growing assaults on mosques and Muslims, and attacks on civil rights gains made over the years, we call upon political leaders to not stand idly by but to speak out forcefully against all forms of bigotry, hatred and divisiveness. We cannot and will not be silent.”