Kean U, high school investigate swastikas
In apparently unrelated incidents, swastika graffiti targeting Jewish students were found at a Kean University dorm room and in a high school rest room in East Hanover.
On Oct. 6, Nathaniel Sietz, a senior communications major from Mount Laurel who is president of the Hillel chapter at the university in Union, found the swastika outside his dorm room.
Scrawled on a whiteboard outside his door were the letter X and two swastikas.
“My first reaction was confusion,” Sietz told NJ Jewish News in an Oct. 27 phone interview. “Were these real swastikas? When I realized they were I had immediate fear.”
Sietz immediately contacted the resident adviser on duty at his dormitory, who “took note of it”; but, he said, “I still felt threatened and I called the police.” A New Jersey state trooper responded, said Sietz, “and he immediately assumed it was a joke. No real threat.”
A few moments later, he said, “I was absolutely freaking out in my room. I didn’t know what to do.”
The following morning Sietz sent e-mails to campus officials, triggering a response from Janice Murray Laury, vice president of student affairs. She referred the matter back to the police.
On Oct. 22, some three weeks later, Sietz learned that a teenager who was not a Kean student had forced his way into the residence hall and was identified by a security camera in the hallway as having smeared the graffiti on the board outside his room.
“He was very drunk and he told police he had gone to the dorm to look for a girl he had met at a party but he never found her,” Sietz said. “It is very bizarre that he would attack my room.”
The suspect is being charged with underage drinking, trespass, and disorderly conduct.
“I feel better now that a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” said Sietz. “I am extremely happy they caught the person and it can start to die down a bit.”
But, he added, he would have liked to have had the campus police send out a mass e-mail saying there had been “a hate crime on campus, and hate crimes will not be tolerated.”
He advises any other students who are victimized to “immediately contact authorities. This is huge.”
Sietz said if her were to meet the suspect “face to face, I would remind him what that symbol stands for. It represented a group that killed six million Jews.”
On Oct. 17, a swastika was found on a boys’ restroom wall at Hanover Park High School in East Hanover.
Sgt. Jack Ambrose of the East Hanover Police Department told NJJN a student saw “a swastika on a bathroom stall along with an obscenity that was directed at a particular Jewish student.”
A close relative of the Jewish student — who asked that his family not be identified — told NJJN the 16-year-old victim, a high school junior, “was very apprehensive about talking about it, but now he realizes it is very important to talk about. He is saying, ‘If I don’t speak up, who will?’
“It is obviously affecting his education, and some people in the community are asking, ‘Why are you making a big deal about this?’ But if he doesn’t, isn’t he dishonoring the people who perished in the Holocaust?”
The graffiti was reported to school authorities, who in turn contacted the police.
Ambrose said detectives and Morris County prosecutors are currently reviewing surveillance video shot in the hallway outside the bathroom.
“It is insensitive and completely disgusting,” Ambrose said. “It has yet to be determined as to whether it is a bias crime, although it certainly was directed at a certain individual.”
In his 28 years on the Hanover police force, said Ambrose, he had never before encountered such an incident.