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Sign of the Times? Swastika Mars Marker

May 3, 2007 By:
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A swastika etched into a sign for Congregation Beth El-Ner Tamid in Broomall caused it to be removed by Marple Township.
A sign for Congregation Beth El-Ner Tamid in Broomall recently touted more than just an advertisement for the shul: It was defaced with a swastika. Situated at the corner of Sproul and Paxon Hallow roads, the metal sign pointed in the direction of the shul about a quarter mile away.

According to Marple Township police, the sign was defaced five years ago and covered with tape, which must have recently fallen off, thus again exposing the Nazi insignia.

Rabbi Barry Blum, however, said that the swastika appeared darker and more vivid than before, leading him to believe that someone tampered with it.

Early last week, Blum heard complaints that a swastika was noticed on the sign's bottom right-hand corner.

Lieutenant Frank Hannigan from the Marple Township Police Department said that after Blum filed a report with the township on April 25, workers again covered the symbol with tape.

By 9 a.m. the next morning, the sign had been removed, and a new one had been ordered.

The crime has been classified as criminal mischief.

"We're not going to just blow this off," said Hannigan, who said that he plans to investigate the incident further. He also noted that there have been no other reports of anti-Semitic vandalism in the immediate area in the last several years.

Blum figured that someone must have recently carved over the original mark, as it seemed more visible, and also displayed an errant "Blue Sun" sticker on the upper right-hand corner.

'It Wasn't Very Visible'

After finding the first mark years ago, Blum said he contacted Marple Township, and the offices of U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-District 7) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), though he admitted to not pressing for the sign's removal.

"In their defense, it wasn't very visible," said Blum. "It was not something that really struck you. If you were driving by, you wouldn't have been able to tell what it was."

After receiving complaints that the carving was again exposed, Blum called police, who had the sign taken down.

Barry Morrison, the executive director of the Philadelphia branch of the Anti-Defamation League, noted concern about a possible copy-cat crime.

"If somebody sees a hateful message, they are sometimes motivated to repeat the message to get attention," he said.

Blum noted that members of the community are supportive of the synagogue, and he believes the incident was isolated.

"I would say that there's a good relationship between the Jewish and non-Jewish community," he said, "and I think that's important."

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