By M.C. Millman –
When Jeffrey Genser, a resident of Suffern for the past 27 years, put up a for sale sign for his six plus bedroom house, the last thing he expected was the publicity he earned – not for the sale of the house, but for the sign. Marked by a Mogen Dovid in all four corners, the sign was vandalized within days. When Genser returned home from dinner at 9 p.m. on Thursday August 10, he saw two young men loitering on the corner of Ramapo at First Street, sitting on bicycles in front of his sign. He felt that something did not feel right so he drove past his driveway to the corner and asked them if he could help them. They quickly rode away without saying a word. He then parked his car in his driveway and proceeded to take his dog out for a routine walk. When he reached the corner where the two young men had been standing just minutes earlier, he was greeted by a cloud of spray paint. At first he didn’t realize what the smell was. When he realized it was spray paint, he looked up at the sign and saw it had been spray painted over. He looked down the street and saw the two people on bicycles racing away. “I saw them, “ Genser said, “and I can identify them. I plan on prosecuting them to the full extent of the law.” The problem is, according to Genser, that he doesn’t feel that the law has any interest in prosecuting them. “I feel they should have been apprehended by now”.
“I asked the officer who came to take the report if he was going to report this as a hate crime,” Genser said. “He told me that it was up to the district attorney to decide if something is a hate crime. It’s pretty clear to me that whoever did this to my sign did it for anti-Semitic reasons. They don’t want Jews with big families moving into the neighborhood.”
The same morning, before the sign was defaced, Genser received the following email.
“I am writing as a concerned neighbor about your sign and would like more info. What exactly is meant by the Jewish stars on your sign? I find it extremely offensive. Are you only willing to sell to Jewish people … I think that sign says the wrong message. It bothers many of your neighbors, in case you are interested.”
After ordering a new sign, he thought about the situation and Genser decided to leave the original sign up spray paint and all. “I want my neighbors to see what is going on in their very own neighborhood,” said Genser.
Other than the attacks on Facebook, Genser feels, “People are trying to act like it never happened. I have never felt this way until they did that to my sign, I was never a victim before. My son and daughter are afraid for my safety”. “I won’t let some punks and a bunch of anti-Semites intimidate me.
And yet one day later, an identical sign that was taped to his house was ripped down and left on the ground while he was at work. Genser reported this second incident to the Suffern Police again. Undeterred, Genser put it back up, but much higher so no one could reach it without a ladder. “Let the neighborhood be reminded that it happened, let those who did it see that their anti-semitic actions didn’t stop me. I am not taking my Star of David sign down for them.”
Genser posted a picture of the defacement on “Suffern Friend’s and Neighbors” Facebook page, so his neighbors could see what was going on in their own neighborhood. Instead of sympathy or outrage, Genser was personally attacked by countless individuals and even outright accused by several of having defaced the signs himself for attention. One poster pledged money towards the defense fund – of the vandals: “If anyone is ever charged with these fake crimes I pledge $200 towards their defense fund.”
“The sign encourages a hate crime,” posted a writer.
“People aren’t anti-Semitic because they don’t want Hassidics, taking over,” claimed another clueless individual. “It’s a behavior thing not religion.” – leaving one to wonder whose behavior was being called in question here.
A few people did raise their voices to Genser’s defense. “It is sad to know that people do not see this as a hate crime. Like I said before, I don’t know anything about this person. However, whether it be of Jewish faith, Christianity, Muslim, or any other type of religion, defacing a sign that has any religious link (Star of David, for example) and then tearing down another is a hate crime. You can read into this is much as you want, but the fact is that there is such animosity towards the Hasidic group, it is so obvious, that anything remotely linked to them stirs up immaturity, and such discrimination. You can argue this point all you want, but a hate crime is a hate crime. I think all of you should be absolutely ashamed of yourself.”
As for the two police reports Genser made sure were filed, three weeks later and still no word on when the Suffern Police Department will give him the copies of the two police reports.