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Swastikas spray-painted outside Jewish congregation in Wellington

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Jan 2020, 4:55PM
One of the swastikas painted on the footpath on The Terrace. (Photo / Supplied)

Swastikas spray-painted outside Jewish congregation in Wellington

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Jan 2020, 4:55PM

The Race Relations Commissioner is calling on every New Zealander to reject the tactics and ideologies of hate groups after swastikas were spray-painted outside Temple Sinai in Wellington.

The Jewish community is on guard after fluorescent yellow swastikas also appeared in several other inner-city locations.

Wellington City Council received reports this morning of graffiti on different parts of the footpath on The Terrace and outside the Wellington Jewish Progressive Congregation on Ghuznee St. It has since been removed.

Photographs supplied to the Herald show swastikas were painted and the word "Heil".

Commissioner Meng Foon said he was appalled by these anti-Semitic acts of intimidation and vandalism.

"All New Zealanders have the right to hold and practice their religious beliefs free from the fear of danger. It is not right that worshipers of any faith should have to worry about their safety and security. I and my fellow Commissioners stand with the Jewish community."

Foon urged anyone who saw or heard about similar acts to report them.

"This type of hate can start small, so refuse to laugh at racist jokes and always challenge hateful stereotypes."

It comes as Israel this week hosts the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and international Holocaust Remembrance Day.

New Zealand's absence from the event has been called disappointing by the New Zealand Jewish Council and labelled disgraceful by the Opposition.

Swastikas painted on the fence outside the Wellington Jewish Progressive Congregation. Photo / Supplied.

Swastikas painted on the fence outside the Wellington Jewish Progressive Congregation. Photo / Supplied.

Temple Sinai chair Matthew Smith said the timing of the graffiti with the event in Israel possibly wasn't a coincidence.

The congregation was grappling with uncertain times, he said.

"Events in New Zealand over the past year and beyond that has left us with a sense of insecurity and vulnerability.

"There's just been this heightened awareness."

Members were a target of several groups but in particular white-supremacists and neo-Nazis, he said.

"I'm upset by it and outraged by it, that we are targeted like that, but at the same time I'm not entirely surprised."

Smith said incidents like the graffiti had the potential to escalate.

"So it's put us very much on guard and in some respects it vindicates our position in that we need to be very mindful of the security and safety of our members because things even in New Zealand are quite uncertain."

The congregation was being told to be watchful, especially as they were coming and going from the temple, and to report anything that made them unsettled or feel unsafe.

"The reality is in New Zealand Society and as New Zealand citizens we should feel entitled to feel safe and practise our religion in safety and with the knowledge that we can do that freely, and the fact this goes on is very disconcerting," Smith said.

Cameras at the temple had not captured those responsible.

Lambton Ward councillor Nicola Young said she was appalled by the graffiti.

"I've always been proud as a New Zealander that we don't have the blight of anti-Semitism in this country.

"There are some really sick people out there and as a Wellingtonian I feel ashamed."

Police confirmed they received a report of wilful damage about 9am this morning regarding a number of properties in the area of Ghuznee St and The Terrace.

Inquiries into the incident are ongoing.

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