(CNN) — A New York man was arrested and charged with hate crimes Friday night after anti-Semitic messages were found in a temple, police said.
James Polite, 26, was charged with four counts of criminal mischief in the fourth degree as a hate crime and making graffiti.
Graffiti was found on four floors of the Union Temple of Brooklyn on Thursday night, some of which said “Hitler,” “Jews better be ready” and “Die Jew rats we are here,” the New York Police Department reported.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attended Shabbat services at the temple Friday night as a show of solidarity.
After the service, he told journalists the incident was a horrible act of hate and “deeply disturbing to all New Yorkers.”
“But it is particularly painful for members of the Jewish community who feel very vulnerable right now, who feel under attack,” de Blasio said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was directing the state’s hate crime unit to investigate.
“The disgusting rhetoric and heinous violence in this nation has reached a fever pitch and is ripping at the fabric of America, and it must stop,” he said. “In New York, we have forged community through chords of commonality and we will always stand together against hate and discrimination.”
Polite was taken after his arrest to a hospital for evaluation, Lt. Paul Ng said. The suspect has not appeared in court.
Suspect had troubles, mentor said
Former New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn said she knows the suspect. He had an internship with Quinn when she was on the council, according to a New York Times profile done last year on Polite.
Quinn tweeted that she and others have tried to help him as he went though the foster care and mental health systems and he dealt with homelessness.
“The actions he is accused of break my heart and devastate all of us who tried to help him get on solid footing over the years. And while he has experienced hardship that most people can’t ever imagine, his actions are inexcusable,” she wrote.
The Times story said Polite worked for Quinn on initiatives to fight hate crimes, domestic violence and sexual assault. The article said Polite called his foster parents, Jenny Levison and Josh Waletzky, his second parents.
Polite had been a volunteer for Barack Obama’s first presidential bid, registering voters and canvassing neighborhoods in New York City, and met Quinn at a gay pride rally for Obama in 2008, the Times reported.
Other cities have seen anti-Semitic acts this week
Swastikas have appeared in at least a handful of US cities since a massacre in Pittsburgh in which 11 worshippers were killed.
On Wednesday morning, a New York City resident posted pictures of swastikas that had been scrawled on homes in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.
The Nazi symbols also appeared on Navy property this week in Bucks County, near Philadelphia. Warminster Township Manager Gregg Schuster posted online that local officials have been in contact with the Navy to get the symbols removed.
“The use of the swastika is a cowardly act,” he said. “In light of what our neighbors in Pittsburgh recently went through, I hope we can refrain from using these symbols of hate. There is no place in Warminster for this disgusting act and I know our community will never accept this behavior.”
A swastika also was found scrawled on a piece of paper in an elevator Monday at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, according to CNN affiliate WHAM.
Also this week, authorities said a synagogue in Irvine, California, had been vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.
Someone spray-painted “F*** Jews” early Wednesday on the wall of Beth Jacob Congregation in Irvine, police said.
Anti-Semitic incidents have been increasing in the US in the last few years, according to the Anti-Defamation League
The Rabbinical Assembly, an international association of conservative rabbis, said last weekend’s shooting is a reminder that anti-Semitism “is on the rise in America at a rate unprecedented in decades.”
There were 151 anti-Semitic hate crimes complaints in the city of New York in 2017, according to a report on the police department website.
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