Monsey Memories: Thirty-five Years Since the Young Israel was Vandalized
By: Yitzy Fried
On Tuesday, July 28th 1987, mispalelim of Young Israel of Spring Valley arrived to see the horrific site of swastikas and other graffiti spray painted on the front of the shul. It turned out that three youths from the area perpetrated the terrible acts, but the shul’s leadership—guided by its longtime rov, Rav Michel Chill, shlit”a— sought reconciliation, not revenge, as we read in the Journal News, which reported their apprehension by law enforcement.
“Alleged temple vandals found,” the Journal reports on Thursday, August 20 of the same year. “Rabbi seeks reform, not jail, for 3 teens.
“Three Spring Valley youngsters accused of spray-painting swastikas and breaking windows at a village synagogue will proibably have to wash away the graffiti and pay for the damage to avoid prosecution, the temple’s rabbi said Wednesday.
“Spring Valley police said the boys have been identified, but will not be arrested in the July 27 desecration of Young Israel of Spring Valley unless the congregation presses charges. The youths, 13, 14, and 15 years old, live in the neighborhood of the Union Road temple, said Detective Steven Levy of the department’s Juvenile Bureau. They could face felony charges of criminal mischief for damages over $1,500 and aggravated for desecrating a house of worship with slogans discriminatory to race, creed or religion.
“Rabbi Michel Chill said the congregation’s leaders will discuss their options, but early indications are they will not press charges. ‘We do not want to put them in jail,’ Chill said. ‘We just want them to erase the signs and hopefully realize you can’t write on synagogues, and to understand what those signs mean. We want the punishment to be educational rather than punitive.’
“Levy said the 15-year-old was the leader and apparently was angry with the congregants over a two-car accident involving an acquaintance of his and a worshipper. Levy said the graffiti on the temple’s walls—which read in part, ‘you can’t hit people with a GM car and get away with it’—apparently refers to that incident.
“’The vandalism is ‘an isolated incident and surprised the people of the community who get along very well with the congregants,’ Levy said.
“Rabbi Chill said … ‘we’d rather they learn a lesson.’”