When attorney Michael Soshnick saw the two four-foot-tall swastikas emblazoned in bright orange on the front doors of Congregation Beth Sholom Chabad in Mineola, N.Y., the day before Independence Day, he was both hurt and outraged. The dignified façade of the shul that he had attended for the past 30 years had been desecrated, and he felt the violation acutely.

What Soshnick saw that day was “a very painful sight, something that instills a lot of emotions ranging from anger to profound sadness.”

Rabbi Anchelle Perl, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mineola and spiritual leader of the synagogue, found out about the vandalism when a member of the cleaning crew called to tell him that she had seen strange symbols painted on the doors.


The Brazilian woman, who didn’t know what the shapes represented, reached the rabbi before he arrived with food that would be served the following day after services. When Perl set his eyes on one of the enormous swastikas blaring from the door, his mind reeled with visions of the Holocaust and thoughts of his father, who had survived the horrors of Auschwitz. Despite all Perl’s father had been through, he had many times reminded his family and children never to hate anyone, and a symbol of hate was now staring him in the face.

The rabbi immediately called Detective Sgt. Gary Shapiro, head of the Nassau County Police Department’s bias crimes unit. Within five minutes, police cars arrived at the synagogue, while passersby took pictures from their cars. Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, who had been jogging in the area, arrived shortly thereafter. A team of investigators sampled the paint and looked for fingerprints, and three vehicles on a nearby street were found to have been similarly spray-painted with swastikas and other images.

In the early afternoon, the police told Perl that he could safely remove the images without harming the investigation, thereby sparing congregants from having to see the swastikas as they arrived for Shabbat services that night.

During services, the rabbi spoke about teachings of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, that emphasized the importance of responding to darkness with increased light. When a Jewish community is intimidated, said Perl, the response shouldn’t be to minimize the threatening act, but to answer it with an even greater commitment to do acts of goodness and kindness.

Speaking earlier this week, Perl noted that for the past 15 years, the synagogue has honored Long Island teenagers, Jewish and non-Jewish, with “Good Deed Awards.” He said that if the investigation finds that young people were to blame, he would want to meet with them and teach them about hate and the power to overcome it.

“We honor kids who do good things,” said the rabbi. “But did the perpetrators realize what they were doing?”

A July 8 unity rally attended by some 150 people at the synagogue struck the same chord.

With County Executive Thomas Suozzi in attendance at the rally and bearing statements of support from State Sen. Craig M. Johnson, Mineola Mayor Jack Martins, area rabbis and local non-Jewish religious leaders, the synagogue offered $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the individuals responsible for the defacement. Soshnick’s wife, Trish Hill-Soshnick, added another $5,000 to the award.

For his part, Michael Soshnick asserted that if, as people widely believe, children were responsible for the crime, they should perform community service to pay the Jewish community back for the hurt they caused. Like Perl, the attorney said that if kids would attend classes on the Holocaust, they would be less likely to engage in this type of activity.

“Education is our strongest weapon,” he said.

Perl, who has been serving the community since 1976, recalled that just three years ago, a flood destroyed the lower part of the synagogue and damaged a Torah scroll that had to be buried.

“Yet, we came out of it, thank G‑d,” said the rabbi. “With G‑d’s help, we’ll come out of this, too.”