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Swastikas Strike Providence

The Jewish community here has been the target of extensive anti-Semitic graffiti over the past week.

Fluorescent orange swastikas were discovered over the Columbus Day weekend. The swastikas had been spraypainted onto the walls of two synagogues and two Jewish-owned businesses. Last Friday, another swastika was chalked onto the entrance to Providence’s Jewish Community Center. All of these incidents took place in the heavily Jewish East Side neighborhood, in the environs of Brown University.

The anti-terrorism division of the providence Police Department is investigating the incidents. The major clue as to the identity of the perpetrators is the fact that alongside the swastikas painted on the CVS Pharmacy on Thayer Street, was the phrase “Skins Rule.” This has led some to believe that there may be some association between the graffiti and a local version of the type of gang known as “skinheads”.

Jewish leaders here expressed concern about the extensive coverage that the anti-Semitic incidents have received in the local news media. Samuel Shlevin, chairman of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith said he suspects the chalking of the swastika on the Jewish Community Center on Friday was a direct result of the news attention that the earlier graffiti received.

Concern mounted after the Boston Chapter of the Jewish Defense League announced plans to stage a demonstration here Sunday protesting the appearance of the swastikas. Some Providence Jews fear that the appearance of the JDL would heighten the tension in the neighborhood rather than alleviate it.

Spokespersons for the JDL have announced that they plan to form neighborhood watch patrols in the East Side neighborhood, in order to prevent further incidents.

The JDL demonstration was scheduled to take place outside of the Conservative synagogue, Temple Emanu-El, one of the sites of the recent graffiti. The other targets were the Orthodox Temple Beth Sholom, the CVS Pharmacy and the East Side Prescription Center.

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