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Swastikas Scratched Into Doors Of Upper West Side Church

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A church on the Upper West Side has been targeted with anti-Semitic graffiti.

Swastikas were scratched into two wooden doors at the Fourth Universalist Society on Central Park West between 75th and 76th Streets.

"There's a lot of concern here in our congregation," Rev. Schuyler Vogel told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell. "We recently decided to become a sanctuary congregation to house undocumented immigrants and we suspect this may have been a reaction to that."

The words "race office" were also scrawled into the wood -- a message Vogel says references offices in Nazi Germany that were "designed to enforce racial hierarchy and propaganda."

Vogel said their commitment to social justice will not be dampened. He believes President Donald Trump needs to speak out against hate crimes.

"I'd like him to be pretty unequivocal in his condemnation actions like this," Vogel said.

Vogel said the support from the surrounding community has been heartwarming.

"It angers me that people feel emboldened to do these things and in such a prominent location in such a neighborhood where you would not expect to find this," church board of trustees president Erin White tells CBS2's Alice Gainer.

Fourth Universalist is non-creedal, which means anyone of any faith is welcome. Rev. Vogel has his theories as to why they might've been targeted.

"We have folks who profess Christian faith, who are atheist, Jewish, Buddhist, the whole spectrum, so it's possible that given that diversity our recent stances on liberal issues such as black lives matter and sanctuary cities that someone decided to vandalize us for that reason," he said.

The congregation also embraces and offers refuge to undocumented people.

"We want to make sure that our people and our congregation knows that we stand behind them and that is a safe place for them," Vogel said.

They've been at the location on Central Park West since 1898 and say nothing like this has ever happened. The graffiti was discovered yesterday morning and is believed to have happened sometime between Monday night and early Tuesday.

This recent incident comes amid a rash of reports of anti-Semitic graffiti across the Tri-State area.

The words "Trump Lies," with a swastika replacing the letter "m," have been spray-painted on five structures in Suffolk County since Jan. 1. In one incident, "lies" was spelled with two S's, resembling the symbol for the Nazi SS unit. Police released images from four of the incidents, but did not disclose the specific locations. 

In a speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Trump specifically mentioned the bomb threats directed at Jewish community centers, vandalism at Jewish cemeteries, and a shooting in Kansas City that left one Indian man dead and another hurt.

"While we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united condemning hate and evil in all of its ugly forms," Trump said.

Trump went on to say he planned to deliver a "message of unity and strength" about a "new chapter in American greatness."

"Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead," he said. "All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free."

Bomb threats have been called in to nearly 100 Jewish institutions in 30 states and Canada since January.


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