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You Can't Wash Away the Hate
by Vinny Lombardo
Friday Apr 20th, 2007 11:34 AM
Is anti-Jewish hate on the upswing in Santa Cruz? In recent weeks, I've noticed alot of anti-Jewish symbolism around Santa Cruz. In this photo-essay, I've got alot more questions, than answers.
"Jews Are Poison." "Jews Caus Wars." "Jews Spread Porn." These are the messages I've scene angrily scrawled on many benches along Pacific Ave. In my mind, I tried to simply laugh at the idiocy of whoever did this. I mean, this person couldn't even spell the word, 'cause,' so how could I take their 'cause' seriously? But I couldn't shake the feeling that it might be something more. Has there been other such hateful messages tagged around Santa Cruz? What about vandalism at local synagogues? These were the questions swirling through my mind as I raced home to find answers.

While the graffiti on the downtown benches is disconcerting, it's been "kind of quiet" on the UCSC campus, says Rick Zinman who answered the phone at Santa Cruz Hillel, a Jewish student resource center. Rick says he hasn't seen the graffiti on the benches downtown, and hasn't heard of any similar incidents on campus or around town in at least six months. "That doesn't mean that nothing has happened, but we haven't had any reports at Hillel."

On my bike ride home, I noticed a gas valve cover plate on the ground at Laurel and Cedar.

This further shocked me. And suddenly I had many more questions. Why is this here? Who manufactured this cover plate? What is the meaning of this? Is it a sick joke, a simple oversight, or a cruel reminder of the murderous legacy of Adolph Hitler? What agency regulates the gas valves? Are there others like it in Santa Cruz?

Picking up the phone, I placed a call to the City Public Works Department. I was cheerfully greeted by Corey Beardsley, an administrative assistant, who says of the gas valve plate, "that's not something the City maintains." Ms. Beardsley hadn't heard of this before, and suggested I talk to someone at Pacific Gas & Electric.

After four exhausting rounds of calls to automated PG&E lines, I was finally given a number for Jeff Smith, their media liason, who was hurrying off for an Easter week vacation. "This question has come up before," but Smith maintains, "there is no religious significance," to the gas valve plates. He didn't know who manufactured it, or how many PG&E maintains, but promised to have answers for me in a week. Two subsequent phone calls to Smith have not been returned.

No matter his response, though. The Magen David, or Star of David, IS a generally recognized symbol of Jewish Community and Judaism. The Star of David, surrounding the words Gas Valve, instantly brings to mind the hate that fueled Hitler's gruesome Nazi legacy.

April 20, 2007 is the 118th birthday of Adolph Hitler, who was Chancellor and Führerof Germany from 1933, until his death 12 years later. As leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (or Nazi Party), Hitler oversaw the killings of at least 11 million people (some historians estimate as high as 14 million), including the genocide of some six million Jews, in what is now known as the Holocaust. By the end of the war, more than 45 million people had died in Europe alone.

Between 1939 and 1945, Hitler's elite guards, known as the SS, systematically killed somewhere between 11 and 14 million people, including about 6 million Jews, in concentration camps, ghettos and mass executions, or through less systematic methods elsewhere. Besides being gassed to death, many also were purposefully killed off by starvation and disease while working as slave laborers (often benefiting private German and US companies in the process). Along with Jews, non-Jewish Poles (over 3 million), Roman Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, & Protestants, alleged communists or anarchists, members of resistance groups, trade unionists, homosexuals, Roma (or Gypsies), the physically and mentally disabled, Soviet prisoners of war (almost 3 million), and psychiatric patients were all exterminated.

The gas valve plate at Laurel and Cedar is particularly offensive. According to escapees and survivors, as well as many WWII historians, some gas chamber buildings in Nazi extermination camps were disguised with a large Star of David decoration and a bathhouse inscription to possibly resemble a “mikva” ~a ritual Jewish bathhouse. This was done to lure compliant Jews to their untimely and gruesome deaths.

This use of deception was most notable at Treblinka II extermination camp, near Warsaw, Poland. At least 800,000 people were killed there (some have said 1.4 million), an amount second only to Auschwitz II (Birkenau) as the site with the most victims killed in the Holocaust. At Treblinka II everything was set up to deceive. Upon arrival, the train station looked like any other, complete with schedules, posters of far away lands, and a real-looking clock. The Nazis did not do this in order to make things more humane for the prisoners, but rather to have less work. After the camp had been camouflaged, the people did not suspect that their death was imminent. The gas chamber building in Treblinka II, was architecturally designed to resemble an old-fashioned synagogue.

While this week marks Hitler's 118th birthday, April 19, 2007 is the 64th anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, when thousands of Jewish Poles resisted the Nazis, and made a righteous choice to escape, or die fighting.

I still have unanswered questions; Why do people hate? How do you change a hate-filled heart? What's the best way to resist hate? But one thing is certain, hate won't go away merely with soap and water.
§Hate at Church St. Bench
by Vinny Lombardo Friday Apr 20th, 2007 11:34 AM
This bench at Church and Pacific ghas been repeatedly tagged with hateful, anti-Jewish messages.
§Hate at Walnut Ave. Bench
by Vinny Lombardo Friday Apr 20th, 2007 11:34 AM
This bench at Walnut and Pacific has also been repeatedly tagged with hateful, anti-Jewish messages. Sadly, many people have a hard time distinguishing the Jewish people, from the actions of the Israeli Government.
§Can't Wash Away the Hate
by Vinny Lombardo Friday Apr 20th, 2007 11:34 AM
Apparently, someone got fed up with the hateful message on this bench at Locust and Pacific. As you can see, there was an attempt to scrub this marking clean, but it didn\'t quite get the job done, proving once again, it will take alot more than soap and water to wash away hate in our town.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by josh sonnenfeld
Friday Apr 20th, 2007 3:38 PM
Thanks for writing this, Vinny. I've been seeing those around too. I took a photo with my cell phone, which I saw by the Bay Federal ATMs downtown. I think the first one I saw was the 'jews cause wars' one. Coming from a Jewish background and growing up in Santa Cruz, I've never had to worry here. It's only been going other places where I started to feel awkward... or that time when a friend and I went to Temple Beth-El for the high holidays and they had private security gaurds armed with assault riffles. We were denied entry because we didn't already have tickets, and my friend forgot his student ID.

When I saw the 'jews cause wars' tag, at first I was surprised. "Here, in Santa Cruz?" I said to myself. And then I sighed and figured that it was probably some confused idiot who bought the 'jews caused 911' conspiracy or 'Iraq is all about Israel' train of thought. But then I started seeing the others, like 'Jews are poison' and I became more upset. First: why would someone think that.. after all these years. Second: why was the writing still there? Why hadn't anyone removed it? How could it be sitting there so matter of factly?

Vinnie brings up a good point that just washing it off won't make the bigotry disappear. Santa Cruz's 'progressive' image is relatively new (since the University came and changed things), and it has always been spotty. Ever since Spanish colonization, Santa Cruz has been unsafe for people of color and it very much continues to this day, 'progressive' image or not. The local indigenous were enslaved under the Spaniards, the mestizos were lynched under Duncan McPherson's reign at the Santa Cruz Sentinel in the late 1800s, local Chinese were assaulted and had their homes burned down by the local (and statewide) anti-Chinese movement of the early 1900s, mid-century black folks, who had built a community after WWII found themselves frequently harassed, such as the minister who was moving to the East Side from San Francisco who had his home burned down by a group of white vigilante neighbors who didn't want their neighborhood desegregated. Then we've got the white Santa Cruz paranoia about Beach Flats, with politicians ignoring the needs of the community there. This is the 'old Santa Cruz' mentality that persists among some in our community. The University came and changed the face of local politics, but they did not dissapear. They thrive on the Sentinel's discussion boards, up in Scotts Valley, and in homes all over town. With Santa Cruz becoming less and less affordable, this 'progressive' image that has always been just that - an image - is struggling to survive. The homeless have been mistreated for years and so many of us turn our eyes. And no, it's not just 'cus we think Robert Norse is odd. Women get assaulted in town, and we give more funding to the cops - the same cops who are going after the homeless. People of color have always been under attack, but few white people - 80% of Santa Cruz - are aware. Many POC try to get the fuck outta Santa Cruz as soon as they can.

Students of color at UCSC routinely talk about the hate they are continuously subjected to, on campus (including the extremely racist tagging of Basking Engineering recently, and the constant references by white people to Oakes as 'the ghetto' or hoping that they 'don't get shot'), and especially in town. Anti-jewish sentiment has gone down in many communities, but that frequently hasn't translated into a safer environment for other folks - specifically people of color and those that challenge gender binaries. Ashkenazi Jews are being assimilated into whiteness in the U.S. and Safartic Jews still struggle for recognition - within society and the Ashkenazi-dominated Jewish community. With many Ashkenazi youth identifying first as 'white' and then as Jewish, we're losing the element that has been central to Jewish identity for centuries - the feeling that we're 'others' and that 'they' could go after us any day. Whether we were religious or not didn't particularly matter. Knowing that our lives were always subject to the waves of hatred, we have a long history of defending others who are persecuted - hence the widespread participation of Jews in the civil rights movement, the women's lib movement, the lesbian rights movement, the antiwar movement and much more.

Recently, a male student interviewed by City on a Hill Press responded to a question related to Don Imus' remarks, asking 'what do you think about hateful speech' or something along those lines. The kid, who I presume was Jewish, said something along the lines of, "i don't really care.. they can say whatever they want... as long as its not anti-semitic." And so goes Ashkenazi assimiliation into whiteness...

I hope that the anti-Jewish tagging can help us to remember, and challenge, all forms of hatred in our community, regardless of who is targeted.
by josh
Friday Apr 20th, 2007 3:41 PM
This sign is posted on the coffee cart at the County Courthouse on Ocean St. I found it particularly telling.. especially in a place such as the Courthouse.

There is no place in the USA that is exempt from anti-Semitism, racism, male chauvinism, homophobia, xenophobia or contempt for the workingclass. This is to put it simply Nazi USA, now that the democratic facade of parliamentary democracy has been removed for most people, and the naked fist of the capitalist state is clear to the majority. The only cure for all the scapegoating is a united, organized workingclass capable of carrying out a general strike to take state power to get rid of capitalism and its profit motive, the cause of the poverty that breeds the scapegoating. Any university campus, and certainly the elite University of California, should always be considered hot spots of anti-Semitism as that form of scapegoating is a "mask for privilege" (also the title of an excellent book on the subject by Carey McWilliams, who wrote lots of other goods books). Just as we fight fire with water, we must fight anti-Semitism with workingclass solidarity and build labor based alternatives to the bankrupt social order in which we live. When people's needs are met, the scapegoating ends.
by Arieh Lebowitz
Saturday Apr 21st, 2007 10:04 AM
It seems to me that if you notice these things, others do, too. I'd recommend solidarity with via reaching out to the jewish community, and seeing how the mainstream as well as the margins of teh Jewish community in teh SC area are grappling with this phenomenon.
This website lists a number of Jewish community groups in the area; there may well be more:
by Bombs and Shields repost
Saturday Apr 21st, 2007 3:09 PM
This was an awesome Jewish riot that happened April 5 of 2006:

Brooklyn, New York, U.S. - More than 1,000 ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews flooded the streets of their Borough Park neighborhood in a spontaneous demonstration against police brutality and harassment. Around 6:30 pm, residents began pushing and shoving police following the arrest of 75-year-old Arthur Schick who police say was talking on a cell phone while stopped at a traffic light. According to some eye-witnesses, the elderly man, who is hard of hearing, was roughed up by police after he failed to provide them with identification when they asked for it. The police say that Schick was argumentative and threw himself on the ground. Two men who tried to intervene in the arrest were arrested themselves, including one who allegedly jumped on the back of an officer.

Residents shouted "No justice, no peace" and "Nazi Germany" as they smashed the windows of a police cruiser and set another one on fire. Rioters built numerous bonfires in the streets, which they held for about four hours until riot police were able to regain control of the situation. Two officers suffered minor injuries, but no one was arrested after the initial incident. Borough Park residents acted in a similar, but less confrontational manner in August, 1999 following the shooting of an emotionally disturbed man, Gideon Busch, who was brandishing a hammer at police when they came to his apartment. Police fired ten rounds at Busch, killing him.
by Bones
Sunday Apr 22nd, 2007 5:42 PM
Alot of the blacks I gew up with here in the 50's and '60's left because they couldn't afford housing new people like you can. The star on the gas valve only means you're paranoid. I was taking acid with Ken Kesey at The Barn back in the '60's, with lots of people from here, in direct contrast from conservative. How do you expect anyone to believe anything you say when you fill holes in your story with bullshit? The university has done more damage than good to this once pristine town. I never once witnessed racism growing up here, and had friends from all races with no problems anywhere in the area. Maybe it was a bubble in time? I know the history of this town, as my family goes back here 122 years, and there has been significantly ugly, racist times, as you mentioned, however, the anti-semetic etc. I've never heard of in my 56 years until fairly recently.
by jojo
Tuesday Apr 24th, 2007 7:58 AM
The other explanations are that this is a part of a larger trend of violence and/or intolerance toward religious groups. There has been a lot of vandalism/property damage to local churches, especially Catholic ones, over the past couple of years. I wonder if this is part of that general trend. It might be helpful to get the perspective of other religious groups (Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) in the area and see if they have also experience similar things.

Another possible explanation is that there may be an individual, who for some reason, thinks it is funny to write such things because "antisemitism" is used (some would say "overused") a lot by certain pro-Israel groups. I've heard comedians joke about this, though actually insulting people on the basis of their faith really isn't funny.
by "mot"
Tuesday Apr 24th, 2007 10:50 PM
what's with using poor spelling habits as a sign of inferior intelligence right after a grammar error? check out your own writing (note the use of the word "scene"):

These are the messages I've scene angrily scrawled on many benches along Pacific Ave. In my mind, I tried to simply laugh at the idiocy of whoever did this. I mean, this person couldn't even spell the word, 'cause,' so how could I take their 'cause' seriously?

...and on a positive note, i've also been disturbed for years by this oversight on the part of pg/e, the city, etc.
by Vinny Lombardo
Tuesday Apr 24th, 2007 11:14 PM
That's quite funny, actually. HaHa. Laughs on me! Oops! In my rush to publish this screed, I guess I failed to overlook that error..... If this were a radio show, I'd have to give you a prize or something, "Mot." But, alas, I don't have one anymore.
by jonathan
Wednesday Apr 25th, 2007 10:54 AM
I thought this was a very intersting and insightful piece. Im not one for conspiracy theories, but it would be interesting to find out more information about the gas cap. I would venture to guess that the graffiti is just some kids who are bored and looking for something to scrawl, though you have to wonder what is going on in their minds that this is what comes out.
Thank you for taking the time to put this together.
by hammer party
Wednesday Apr 25th, 2007 1:17 PM
As I exited the Thrift Center on Front St. today, I turned left to cut through New Leaf's parking lot. Lo and behold, I looked down and noticed two swastikas and other markings carved into the dirty, faded concrete ages ago. The markings bear the date,"93," probably the last time that piece of sidewalk was repaved... Anyone got a sledge hammer?
by jt
Wednesday Apr 25th, 2007 2:15 PM
Hey, a 6 pointed star isn't JUST a Star of David. Many police badges use a 6 pointed star, for instance (see link below).

I think assuming it's some sort of sick insult perpetrated by one of California's 2 major utility companies is laughable, and hurts your larger (and more important) point about anti-semitic thought.
by stargazer
Monday Apr 30th, 2007 4:57 PM
A lot of people who direct their anger towards Jews are actually directing against Israeli Zionist regime and its main ally which is US ofcourse. Not all Jews are Zionists but most Zionists are Jews. I have many friends in Tikkun community who are Jews and stand against the apartheid Israel.

Apart from that, the meaningless diatribe like 'all Jews are bad' is no different than the racist populus blaming African Americans, Hispanics and immigrants in general for all the socio economic problems in the society.

Maybe you ought to dig deeper and go beyond the pictures and look for real answers. There will always be people scribbling, spraying, shouting vulgar and meaningless things because they don't know any better. Instead you may want to focus on the real issues, such as the Illegal occupation of the Palestine and violation of all International and Human rights laws by the so called state of Israel.
by sentinel report
Tuesday May 1st, 2007 10:13 AM
Hateful crime shuts Scotts Valley High
By Matt King
Sentinel staff writer
by kcehc
Wednesday May 9th, 2007 10:49 AM
A lot is two words.

Damn that annoys me.
by Concerned citizen
Friday May 11th, 2007 4:12 PM
I can agree with your concerns about anti-Jewish sentiments being expressed in our community. As a Jew I find this alarming and disturbing. I was very disturbed by the recent taggings at local schools. However... I also think it is very important to look at what is going on around the world when examining this issue. We are living in a time when the country of Israel is occupying Palestine and savagely killing the Palestinian people.
To me seeing these sentiments are somewhat similiar to seeing anti-German sentiments during the Holocaust. To blame all individuals for the crime of a nation is wrong... but not that atypical.
The fact that this issue has not even come up in your writings or in the comments is more alarming to me that the tags themselves.
by vg
Sunday Feb 24th, 2008 12:07 PM
I agree with JT that many police departments are using a six point star as their badge as you can tell for the following examples but why would the star be used on the gas cap? It sure is quite a coincidence.


Also, has their been any update fro the gas company on the cap design?
by Jake
Saturday May 2nd, 2009 7:35 PM
Yah, I've seen that around too. My guess is that one person is doing the graffiti (considering it's always in green ink and always the same handwriting), so guessing that it's probably one dude. So, yah, "all the graffiti" really only amounts to one data point, not really a general rise in anti-semitism. As for the drain pipe, I'd be more likely to suppose it's coincidence, though nonetheless, a careless mistake that should corrected.
by the anti-vinnie
Monday May 11th, 2009 6:11 AM
So all you found around the city was a gas cap (which is supposed to warn of an explosion hazard) and three examples of graffiti that all use the same handwriting, probably the photographers. Try again chief

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