A Penticton woman is disgusted by a senseless act of graffiti found on the back door of Cheers the Church.
“I was pretty horrified to see it actually because it is a hate crime,” said Rena Groot, a teacher at Penticton Christian School who attends Cheers the Church. “Maybe the person didn’t know that or realize all the stuff behind the statement they made on the wall.”
It was while out on a class walk last week that Groot and her students came across the graffiti with the words “burnt jew,” a star of David drawn with flames surrounding it and an arrow pointing towards where the charred outline of a mattress remains.
Groot said she was taken back when she walked by with her class to see the vandalism taken to another level with the graffiti.
“It was really sad. Immediately one of the kids noticed it and pointed it out because there was also some course language,” said Groot. “I have been to the Holocaust museum and have relatives of Jewish descent so this has a lot of meaning to me. I have heard of these types of actions in other parts of the world, but to see it in Penticton it is so chilling.”
Groot said she has noticed a rise in anti-Semetic crimes around the world, but never believed she would find it in Penticton, which she has always viewed as a safe place.
“I wouldn’t want to see something like that against any group or person. I really don’t think it is fair and that is why I am standing up to speak about it. People in the Second World War that hid Jewish people weren’t afraid to stand up for what is right and some died for it. If they are willing to do that then I have to be willing to not care that my name is now out there and stand up for what is right here.”
Groot said she hopes that if someone is caught that it will turn into a learning lesson for them.
“We need people’s consciousness to be awakened. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. I hope we can teach whoever did this about what their actions truly mean. This could be a learning lesson rather than a punishment and maybe they could clean it up or do some community service instead of community messing up,” said Groot.
RCMP confirmed they are dealing with a rash of graffiti recently but it has mostly been individuals tagging their nickname around the city.
It isn’t the first time they have seen degrading remarks in spray paint, including at a cemetery and more recently in the summer of 2012 when buildings, road signs and vehicles were painted with racist graffiti. Those individuals were caught and sentenced in court.
“People out there know who did this and we start getting calls and tips when it crosses that threshold of taggers to something more serious,” said Sgt. Rick Dellebuur. “Depending on what was written or what they did, they could be charged with a hate crime and not just mischief.”