HIGHLAND PARK, NJ - Residents of the 1.8 square mile borough are learning of an alleged incident of anti-Semitism early Thursday morning, when a resident found an envelope on her front lawn covered in anti-Semitic drawings and including various forms of trash.
Elaine Dean, whose lived in Highland Park for at least 14 years, said the outside of the package on her lawn sported drawings of a middle finger, a Nazi swastika and vulgar descriptions of Jews.
Dean said the inside contained garbage, cigarette butts and what appeared to be dog excrement.
“A list of people who I thought it might be started going through my head, and then I called the police,” Dean said.
The Highland Park Police Department and Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office are jointly investigating the incident, according to Highland Park Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler.
"Highland Park really doesn't tolerate this kind of thing," Mittler said. "If you drive around on many resident's lawns, you'll find the 'Hate Has No Home' sign."
A spokesperson for the Highland Park Police Department or Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office could not be immediately reached for comment.
Dean describes herself as Jewish, though she’s not actively religious or involved with any local synagogue. Her 10-year-old daughter attends a private Jewish school nearby, while her 14-year-old son attends the borough high school.
The town has a large Jewish population and sports half a dozen synagogues, a Kosher pizza place, a Judaica gallery and an extensive Israeli and Kosher food section at the borough’s local grocery store.
“This stuff just doesn’t happen in Highland Park,” Dean said.
One theory Dean had was that the envelope was placed on her lawn by angry neighbors, who were seeking retaliation against Dean for having four dogs.
Dean said she’d received verbal complaints from neighbors, saying they were frustrated with the noise her dogs were making. She disputed the notion that the dogs were noisy, or that she was violating any local noise ordinances.
Even if the incident was retaliation, Dean said, whoever left the flyer had gone too far.
“Dogs bark and you talk to them” said longtime resident Michael Garber, referring to the owners and not the dogs, “You don’t put out anti-Semitic diatribe.”
Michael has been living in Highland Park just shy of 30 years, along with his wife, Sharon Garber, who owns the Covered Girl store on Raritan Avenue.
The store serves religious women such as observant Jews, but also caters to Muslims, Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists in search of more modest clothing.
Sharon Garber has been running the store for six years. She and Michael Garber, both self-described Jews, say they’re active in Congregation Ohav Emeth.
“It’s upsetting,” Sharon Garber said, adding that since she’s moved to Highland Park, the Jewish population has steadily grown.
Nearby at Rutgers University, the Jewish population is still reeling from a slew of anti-Semitic incidents across campus. The weekend before Halloween, a Nazi swastika was found painted on a dorm near the Rutgers dining hall, and shortly before that, a Rutgers food science professor was found to have allegedly shared dozens of anti-Semitic posts on his Facebook.
Most recently, reports surfaced that a Rutgers international relations professor was allegedly an ambassador for Syria and the regime of Bashar al-Assad during the Syrian Civil War, and accused Israel of trafficking human organs.