Stamford Jewish leaders react to swastikas drawn on sidewalks
STAMFORD — Diane Sloyer interpreted three swastikas with the words “good luck” scribbled in chalk on downtown sidewalks this week as a challenge to the Jewish community.
“It is disturbing,” said Sloyer, CEO of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien. “It is hard to wake up in the morning not knowing what we are going to see on that particular day.”
Police are looking for a man wearing a backpack who was caught on surveillance video near the Ferguson Library around 3:30 a.m. Thursday. One of the swastikas with the message “good luck” and a picture of a heart was drawn on the sidewalk outside the Broad Street library.
Similar drawings were found Thursday morning in front of 285 Bedford St. and 11 Forest St.
Sloyer called the swastikas blatant symbols of antisemitism and hate.
“It is disturbing and unnerving and I certainly hope they catch the person,” she said.
The incident occurred about two weeks after 11 people were killed during a service at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest attack on Jews in the U.S.
Stamford Assistant Police Chief Tom Wuennemann said the last antisemitic incident in the city occurred in August 2017 when swastikas and other graffiti were discovered spray painted on the walls of the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering on High Ridge Road.
One month earlier, a Stamford man used his own feces to smear a swastika and a Star of David on a window near the entrance of the Rich Forum Media Center on Atlantic Street.
Lt. Tom Scanlon said officers have been speaking to downtown business owners and examining security videos. Police have released pictures of the suspect, but have not captured an image of the person’s face.
Scanlon said police are also investigating whether the swastikas were related to the South Asian holiday of Diwali, known as the festival of lights that ended Thursday. In religions like Hinduism, the swastikas are drawn on doorsteps as a way of welcoming people into their homes.
“We need to identify who this person is and get an understanding of his background and try to understand his motivation before we can get a definitive idea of the meaning of the drawings,” Scanlon said. “Whether he was trying to cause alarm or whether there is a Diwali connection is relevant.”
Swami Balgopal, founder of the Wilton Hindu Temple, said the Hindu swastika is similar to the Nazi symbol, but turned slightly and usually includes dots. Balgopal said the swastikas drawn in Stamford appeared to be Nazi symbols.
Police presence has been increased downtown and officers were stationed Thursday night at the library, which held the seventh annual Saul Cohen-Schoke Jewish Family Service lecture.
Rabbi Daniel Cohen, of Congregation Agudath Sholom, said it’s important to bring the community together.
“It’s another reminder for all of us of the importance of building bridges in our community,” Cohen said. “We need to rise above this divisiveness…to fight the darkness and bring light.”