Antisemitic acts coincide with the Jewish New Year

Children playing at the Mindowaskin Park
playground (Photo by Yuxin Lin)

On Aug. 31, a five inch swastika was etched into a piece of playground equipment at Mindowaskin Park, according to This is not the first act of antisemitic vandalism that has happened in Westfield, as two symbols were also found in the WHS bathroom in March, and in Franklin Elementary School back in 2018. The month of September this year was a holy month in the Jewish community, with two major holidays. Rosh Hashanah (Sep. 6-Sep. 8), symbolizes the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur (Sep. 15- Sep. 16), is the Day of Atonement, in which the Jewish people absolve their personal sins from the past year.

Students at WHS of all faiths were saddened that they were unaware of the recent vandalism situation, especially considering its close proximity to the High Holy days. “I am disappointed that I didn’t hear about it until just now and I think that people should be talking about this more,’’ said senior Amanda Wallis.

Due to their age, children at the Mindowaskin Park playground may not know the true meaning behind the swastika symbol. This raises the question of where this display of hate is coming from. Is it from influences at home? Or is there a lack of education on the history of antisemitism in our schools?

“I think it’s disappointing to not know more about the situation. I think the school should do a better job about informing students and faculty about hate crimes in the town,” said Eric Harnisher, senior and president of the Jewish Cultural and Development Club at WHS.

“I was extremely saddened by the lack of education about the Holocaust last year,” senior Zoe Sherman said. “We spent over a month on World War II and only focused on the Holocaust for maybe a day. Maybe if kids were more educated on the tragedy, these acts of hate wouldn’t occur.”

Recently, Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle took action to root out antisemitic hate crimes. Brindle said on her Instagram @mayorbrindle, “In light of the recent swastika found on the playground equipment in Mindowaskin Park, which followed several hate symbol graffiti incidents over the past year, we introduced an ordinance to increase fines for bias crimes, from $200 to $2,000 per violation.”

Brindle also added that she signed on the American Jewish Committee’s Mayors United Against Antisemitism campaign last year. She said that by signing on this campaign, she is reaffirming her commitment to protecting her community against antisemitic discrimination.

Rabbi Ethan Prosnit at Temple Emanu-El in Westfield responded to Hi’s Eye stating, “It is important for students as well as the entire school community to understand the vile and hateful nature of this symbol and education and awareness is needed so cowardly acts like these do not continue to happen. We should celebrate the diversity of our community and we should make sure that our school community truly is ‘no place for hate.’’’

The Westfield community aims to enter the Jewish New Year with a new understanding of what these antisemitic acts in our community truly mean, and how our community can put an end to them in the future.