RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Vandals spray painted a swastika inside a Star of David on the entrance wall of a Jewish sports club located on a busy avenue in Rio.
The Nazi symbol, drawn backwards, appeared inside the three-foot-tall Jewish symbol that identifies the Brazilian Israelite Club, a Jewish institution attended by Jews and non-Jews and whose doors commonly remain open for neighborhood events.
“The symbol of the terrible Nazi regime is offensive not only to Jews but also to gypsies, homosexuals and all groups persecuted by the Third Reich,” said Harry Rosenberg, president of the Rio Jewish Federation. “Even if the criminal drew the swastika in the reserve way, the symbol offends all humankind.”
Copacabana is Rio’s most-Jewish populated neighborhood with some 3,500 Jewish families and several Jewish institutions including the Rio Jewish Federation, the Jewish Agency, the honorary consul’s office, a Jewish school and many synagogues.
“We will not admit any type of anti-Semitism or intolerance be it racial or religious or against minorities. We won’t allow,” Claudio Goldemberg, vice president of the Rio Jewish federation, said during an interview with the Globo TV channel.
Local police are investigating the incident, which is considered a hate crime because it occurred at a venue representing a particular religion. Last week, the club hosted a Jewish-led debate with participants from the political right wing.
A few blocks away from the club, a square was dedicated Friday in memory of late Israeli leader Shimon Peres. Rio’s mayor Marcelo Crivella attended the inauguration ceremony and said that his city residents must be inspired by the Peace Nobel Prize winner’s legacy of peace.
Several years ago, a 23-year-old student was charged for boasting of a leg tattoo of a swastika during a party at the club. A confessed Hitler sympathizer, he declared he was “just kidding.”
In 2016, three swastikas were found on the street parallel to the one where the square was recently inaugurated.