Former Obama volunteer arrested for anti-Semitic graffiti


News Desk

The NYPD on Friday night arrested James Polite, 26, who spent his childhood living in 13 foster homes, struggled with mental illness and drug addiction, and volunteered on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, for vandalizing Union Temple at 17 Eastern Parkway on Thursday with anti-Semitic graffiti stating, “die Jew rats we are here,” “Jews better be ready,” “End It Now” and “Hitler.”

Polite was recognized by police based in a surveillance video that showed him inside the temple. He was arrested Friday morning at a fire that had been set in the coat room of Yeshiva Beth Hillel of Williamsburg.

According to the NY Times, former City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, took Polite, under her wing in 2008, and got him an internship at the Council, working on combating hate crimes.

“This is a young man I have worked with for over a decade,” Quinn said on Saturday. “With all the setbacks, you hoped this would be a good turn. But the opposite happened.”

Quinn said she was “devastated,” adding, “What James did is horrible and in some ways unforgivable.”

The anti-Semitic hate messages were discovered on a door and in the stairwell at the historic Union Temple Reform Jewish synagogue building Thursday evening, leading to the cancellation of a political event that night. ‘Broad City’ star Ilana Glazer emerged from the venue at around 8:30 pm to tell the crowd that had gathered for the evening that it would not take place, due to the hate found inside.

“Kill all Jews” was scrawled on a door in the synagogue, according to the New York Post. Anti-Semitic slurs were found on the second and fifth floor as well, leading to fears for the safety of those who had gathered for the evening’s event.

The incident followed by one day another in which vandals scrawled a swastika and the “n” word on the stairs of a home in Brooklyn Heights. The graffiti was discovered around 9:30 pm Tuesday – barely four days after a mass murder at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea noted during an unrelated news conference on Wednesday there were “several incidents of swastikas being drawn” in the police precinct that encompasses the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.

“What we’ve seen in the last month is an increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes, particularly Swastikas on buildings in parts of the city,” Shea said. “Anti-Semitic hate crimes make up about half of all of the hate crimes that we see in New York City.”

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