After a string of acts of vandalism targeting places of worship, religious symbols and town buildings, Yorktown’s government, interfaith community and residents have rallied together to support one another.
Police say that between 11:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3, and 7 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, the Chabad of Yorktown menorah was toppled from its concrete foundation at Jack DeVito Veterans’ Field and four glass doors were smashed at Yorktown Stage, the theater attached to the Albert A. Capellini Cultural and Community Center. In addition, nine windows were shattered at the John C. Hart
Memorial Library in Shrub Oak and multiple stained glass windows at First Presbyterian Church and the St. Patrick’s Old Stone Church were destroyed.
However, as of Tuesday, the glass doors of Yorktown Stage were repaired and Supervisor Matt Slater said officials expected the windows of the John C. Hart Memorial Library to be repaired by the end of the week by employees of the Yorktown Building and Maintenance Department and with the help of Yorktown Glass.
“I grew up here and these events are indeed unprecedented. We will not tolerate these actions nor will we let them define us.
Our residents are clearly and obviously upset but we are here to assure them we are doing everything possible,” Slater said.
“Adversity is meant to test us and we as a community and town government are going to continue to rise to the occasion and reject any and all forms of hate and reject all actions that are motivated by hate.”
On Monday, Jan. 6, Yorktown Police Chief Robert Noble announced that police believe another incident is connected in the crime spree.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church displayed a menorah for the holiday season that was toppled over on the same night the other incidents occurred.
Police have established that whoever committed these acts started in the northwest area of town at St. Mary’s and proceeded southeast to the library, the First Presbyterian Church, Yorktown Stage and Veterans’ Field and then on to St. Patrick’s.
Police have also released a photo of a car believed to be leaving the library around the time it was vandalized. However, because of the rainy weather that night, the make, model and license plate of the car is unclear in the photo, though Noble said it is believed to be a four-door sedan. The photo will be sent to the Westchester Intelligence Center and the FBI for enhancement.
“This is a community where religious diversity is celebrated and we protect it,” Noble said. “Yorktown is a safe place to live, work, raise a family and to worship. We’re going to keep it that way and we want to hold the people accountable responsible who did these things to the very places we hold sacred. We’re asking the public, if you have any information that can help us, we’re all ears.”
Westchester District Attorney Anthony Scarpino said the county’s resources are available to assist Yorktown in its investigation.
“We have had some very sad situations all around us and this can be something that is of a very disturbing nature, or turn out to be something of a less disturbing nature, after we fully investigate it, and we are fully investigating it. Upon the results of that investigation, you will be made fully aware of what we have,” Scarpino said.
Rabbi Yehuda Heber from the Chabad of Yorktown thanked Noble and Slater for their personal visits and pledges to increase patrol to places of worship in town.
“It is extremely unfortunate that such acts have occurred. In times such as these, the Jewish reaction has always been to hold tighter and more steadfast to our heritage and more determined to be beacons of love and acceptance for all. Our mission is peace over violence, courage over cowardice, love over hate,” Heber said.
Rabbi Robert Weiner from Temple Beth Am said that when there is an attack on one house of worship, it is an attack on all houses of worship.
“The interfaith community is very much bonded together. We are bonded and will continue to be bonded, uniting and supporting each other through these very difficult times,” Weiner said. “As we repair the glass, hopefully we all can see clearer. We can see that there is hatred but we can all work together, to work and fight against it.”
Co-pastors Tami Seidel and Chip Low of First Presbyterian Church thanked the town and police department for their efforts and echoed Weiner’s sentiments.
“We are thankful this is not a normal occurrence in Yorktown and yet, at the same time, we reiterate what Rabbi Weiner said, that though this doesn’t happen to us [with] any frequency, an attack here on us as Presbyterians and Christians is also an attack on Jews and Catholics and other religious groups,” Low said.
He also said that they ask individuals to not respond to these attacks with the same violence.
Monsignor Joseph Giandurco of St. Patrick’s said the community should always stick together, but especially in times like these.
“Our parishioners were both sad and upset [with] the breaking of our 90-year-old windows. Obviously, it could have been a lot worse, but we thank God it was only the windows. We hope that these types of actions cease from happening both here, across the country and around the world,” Giandurco said.
County legislators have responded to the attacks, condemning them.
“The recent incidents of vandalism in Yorktown, directed against places of worship, religious symbols, a theater and even a local library are deplorable and should be condemned in the strongest possible way by all fair-minded people. It is up to all of us to stop the divisiveness and disregard that pits neighbor against neighbor and to tamp down hate and intolerance wherever it is found.” Sen. Pete Harckham said.
County Executive George Latimer urged residents to stand in solidarity against hate and intimidation.
“Know that the entire county of Westchester stands with Yorktown. Together we must work to teach tolerance and kinship and let those who want to shatter our unity and destroy the peace we enjoy understand that expressions of hate have no home in Westchester County. We will push back in every manner possible to assure that everyone is safe from such hatred,” Latimer said.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey issued a statement on the heels of the anti-Semitic attack in Monsey.
On Saturday, Dec. 28, five Hasidic Jews were stabbed in an attack during a Hanukkah celebration at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg. It was the second stabbing in Monsey since November.
“The vandalism in Yorktown is yet another example of hate that has no place in our community. These acts, especially during this difficult time of anti-Semitic violence, further heighten fear among our friends and neighbors. My heart is with those affected by this weekend’s incidents and I will continue working to combat senseless hate,” Lowey said.
Slater stressed that Yorktown is a safe community.
“Our residents should not be fearful; they should not be nervous. We have a fantastic police department and with the help of our partners in government and law enforcement, we are here to bring a swift conclusion to this ugly episode,” Slater said.
Law enforcement asks that anyone with information to call the Yorktown Police Department at 914-962-4141 or email email@example.com.