Painted swastika found at preserve near Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County


Welwyn Preserve, known for its wooded hiking trails, is just steps away from the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, on Crescent Road in Glen Cove. The area is often marked with graffiti art of pop culture characters, but in recent years, symbols of hate have been scattered through the abandoned buildings and trees.

The most recent act of vandalism, a swastika painted on a tree and an MS-13 gang tag on another tree, was discovered by a hiker on Aug. 22, after the museum closed for the day. As of press time, the investigation of the incident was continuing.

The Anti-Defamation League, which promotes education about the Holocaust, reported that hate crimes against Jewish people hit a record high in New York state in 2022 — a total of 580, the most of any state in the country. That is a 39 percent increase since 2021, when 416 incidents were reported, and more than double the number a decade ago. According to the ADL, New York alone accounted for 15.7 percent of all documented antisemitic incidents in the United States in 2022.

Martin Bloch, who moved to Oyster Bay in 1984, was one of roughly 3,000 Jewish partisans who fought the Nazis.

Today he lectures on the Holocaust, and said he feels that education is important to keep future generations from repeating history.

“Whenever I see it, I get very concerned,” Bloch said when asked about the vandalism in Welwyn Preserve. “But I’m not surprised by what happened.”

Moji Pourmoradi, the Holocaust center’s executive director, said she was also not surprised by the incident, and described antisemitism as attempts to dehumanize the Jewish population. The museum, Pourmoradi said, works to combat that mindset.

“To see that people are forgetting the message of humanity, that’s what’s scary to us,” she said. “What we see is that people are forgetting our humanity again. It’s time for upstanders to stand up. It’s time for those kinds of people to speak up and say that we’re not going to tolerate it.”

The Holocaust center has long fought acts of bigotry and hate, and Alan Mindel, its board chair, said he wants people to realize the world is seeing the last generation of Holocaust survivors diminish over time. But there is a renewed emphasis on Holocaust education in local schools, thanks to a state law signed last year by Gov. Kathy Hochul, requiring public school superintendents to confirm in a survey that their schools are making the Holocaust part of classroom instruction.

The survey asks whether elementary, middle and high schools are providing instruction on the Holocaust, how they are doing so and what type of training teachers have received in the subject.

Mindel said that in spite of this, the museum often receives calls from schools about students who have manifested antisemitic attitudes or taken part in hate-related incidents. The students are sent to the museum to meet with a docent or a Holocaust survivor, and tour the exhibits detailing the genocide of European Jews during World War II. Then they are asked to fill out a questionnaire, explaining how they felt during the tour, what they learned and what motivated their antisemitic behavior.

Bernie Furshpan, the museum’s marketing director and educator, said that despite recent incidents, the museum is not “cowering back” to draw less attention to itself. In fact, Furshpan said, it is doing the opposite.

“We really do fight back hate, and push for tolerance in education with young people,” he said. “It’s really young people that are doing this. Most of the time, they don’t even know what they’re doing and they don’t even know why they’re doing it.”

Furshpan added that whatever the reasoning is behind the vandalism, those who are responsible don’t truly understand what antisemitism is.

The Glen Cove Police Department has increased its presence at the preserve, he said, and military personnel have reached out to him to offer their services to help patrol the area.

“Whenever you have a common enemy, people unite in solidarity,” Furshpan said. “So it looks like the community is definitely stepping up in terms of showing their support.”

The museum and the GCPD request that they be contacted immediately if visitors see evidence of vandalism. The Police Department is investigating the most recent incident, and asks that anyone with information about it call (516) 676-1000.