Swastikas painted on Lake Zurich school, playground

 
 
Updated 12/30/2019 5:00 PM

A large, spray-painted swastika was discovered on an exterior wall at Seth Paine Elementary School in Lake Zurich on Monday -- the final day of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah.

Two smaller swastikas were painted on nearby playground equipment, too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Nazi symbols appeared with other graffiti -- including the phrase "Trump 2020" with an X through it, the phrase "Joe Biden 2020" and some vulgar words and designs, Lake Zurich police said.

The vandalism coincided with a rise in anti-Semitic violence in New York that has gained international attention -- including a knife attack at a rabbi's house Saturday that left several people injured.

Most of the graffiti was painted on a wall on the east side of the school, 50 W. Miller Road, Deputy Police Chief David Anderson said. The vandalized playground equipment is nearby.

The crime likely occurred sometime after 2 p.m. Saturday, Anderson said.

Lake County Board member Jessica Vealitzek lives near the school and discovered the vandalism Monday morning. She reported it to police and then posted a photo of the graffiti on her Facebook page.

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She was deeply disturbed by what she saw.

"It affected me physically," the Hawthorn Woods Democrat said. "My hand was shaking as I took the photo and I started sweating. I became nauseated."

District 95 Superintendent Kelley Gallt responded to the vandalism with a message posted at lz95.org.

"I am certainly shocked that this type of crime would take place within the boundaries of District 95, most especially during a time of holiday celebrations and joy for many cultures," Gallt wrote. "We are an inclusive, friendly and loving community and should expect all individuals living in or visiting our district community to celebrate all that makes us unique and good."

Lake Zurich Unit School District 95 crews worked to remove the vandalism Monday. Police collected evidence at the school and are seeking video footage of the crime, Anderson said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Mayor Tom Poynton called the vandalism "repugnant, abhorrent and intolerable."

"We will do our best to locate the offenders and prosecute them to the fullest extent," Poynton said.

The vandalism was reported to the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights group especially focused on anti-Jewish hate.

Reports of anti-Semitic actions such as harassment, vandalism and assault are up 110% in the Midwest and up 48% nationally since 2016, according to the group's data.

"The unfortunate reality is, we're seeing these types of incidents on a too-regular basis," said David Goldenberg, the group's Midwest regional director.

Although some of the graffiti in Lake Zurich appeared more puerile than threatening, the group is taking the vandalism seriously, Goldenberg said.

"There's no question about it -- the swastika is a symbol of hate and it's used to intimidate and elicit fear, especially (among) Jews and other marginalized communities," he said.

The vandalism also drew a rebuke from U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, a Deerfield Democrat who is Jewish. The increased attacks on the Jewish community should be a warning to everyone, he said in a Facebook post.

"We must not stand silent, neither as individuals or as a community," Schneider said. "Hate is hate, and it has no place here."

Vealitzek's Facebook post drew dozens of replies, many of them from people angered by the vandalism.

"My three Jewish children attended that school and I am devastated beyond words," one person wrote.

"This is beyond terrible," another wrote.

Others called the graffiti terrifying, infuriating and disgusting.

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