SWC, National Park Service, and Ortega National Parks Announce Action Plan Following Anti-Semitic Attack at Silver Gull Beach Club
November 26, 2019
NEW YORK, NY – November 26, 2019 – Yesterday, representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the National Park Service, and Ortega National Parks announced a critical partnership to combat anti-Semitism and hate in response to the Labor Day hate crime at the Silver Gull Beach Club. In September, authorities found Holocaust-related graffiti like swastikas and “gas chambers” references at the club during the final week of the beach season.
The three organizations yesterday unveiled their jointly developed plan that can serve as a model program for a no-tolerance policy toward such displays of hatred at NPS/Ortega parks and in other jurisdictions. Following the announcement, the three organizations held a town-hall style meeting with more than 130 members of the community to discuss the implementation of this plan.
The action items in this model collaboration include:
An annual joint delegation beginning this winter of NPS, U.S. Park Police and Ortega officials to the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance to engage in a multi-day, specially designed train the trainer training for them to dramatically increase preparedness for seasonal employees on the areas of diversity, cultural sensitivity, and proper readiness for combating hate in their facilities and properties.
Displaying on the opening weeks of the 2020 season at Silver Gull Beach Club and Breezy Point Surf Club the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Courage to Remember exhibit detailing the timeline of the Holocaust, and demonstrating its underpinnings through the growth of unchecked hate. This education displays will be put up at Silver Gull Beach Club from May 26-June 2, and then moved to the Breezy Point Surf Club from June 2-June 9.
A detailed presentation by the Simon Wiesenthal Center on the realities of rapidly rising trends of hate and anti -Semitic attacks, the effect on their consumers in the New York market to the Silver Gull attack, and the steps being taken by Ortega leadership both in the New York concessions and around their holdings nationally to proactively ensure appropriate levels of training and preparedness moving forward to Ortega National Parks directors around the country. (This occurred at the annual Ortega National Parks directors meeting in Las Vegas on 11/20.)
A town-hall style meeting organized by Ortega National Parks, NPS, U.S. Park Police for all Silver Gull Members with a Simon Wiesenthal Center facilitated dialogue both advising consumers of the joint approach and seriousness of response to the hate attack, and to allow for members and Ortega staff the forum to discuss their feelings on what occurred and their expectations moving forward. The first of these town-hall style meetings took place yesterday following the announcement, with more than 130 members of the community in attendance. All three organizations further committed to organizing additional community meetings in the future, including in spring 2020.
“We hope that this plan serves as a national model and springboard for other community spaces around the country to proactively enforce a no-tolerance policy toward any incidents of anti-Semitism and hatred. There is no room for this kind of bigotry in our parks—or anywhere,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“Gateway is a national park, here for all people. Hate has no place at our sites and runs counter to the values for which we stand. We look forward to working with Ortega National Parks and the Simon Wiesenthal Center to ensure that we are providing a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for all visitors,” said Jen Nersesian, Superintendent at Gateway National Recreation Area.
“We’re proud of the close community we’ve fostered at Silver Gull Beach Club and refuse to tolerate such a hateful act. We will do all we can with the National Park Service to prevent this from happening here again,” said Frank Pikus, Chief Executive Officer of Ortega National Parks.
“The announcement today of a model substantive collaboration between the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Ortega National Parks, The National Parks Service and National Park Police needs to recognized for its uniqueness demonstrating to park membership and the larger community in substantive detail that there is so much more to combating anti-Semitism and hate then simple condemnation,” said Michael Cohen (pictured above speaking to group), Eastern Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“I am pleased to see the investigation into the horrific hate symbols and words that were found in and around the National Gateway Recreation Area in Rockaway is ongoing and that collaborative efforts are underway to address the need to reduce these types of hateful criminal activity,” State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. said. “Usually, there is minimal follow up on incidents such as this, so it is refreshing to hear updates about this situation. I would also like to thank all those involved in the education campaign aimed at raising awareness about hate speech and hate symbols that came out of this terrible incident. Educating the youth and others on what these words and symbols means can go a long way in rooting out hate in our communities.”
“I commend Gateway National Recreation Area, Ortega National Parks and the Simon Wiesenthal Center for taking proactive steps aimed at countering anti-Semitic attacks in our communities,“ Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway) said. “The fact that these images were discovered means that there is a systematic attempt to intimidate this community. We must continue to demonstrate that our love and commitment is stronger than any attempt instill fear and promote hate. I look forward to standing with all of these organizations against bigotry and intolerance.”
For more information, please contact the Center's Communications Department, 310-772-2454. join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent directly to your Twitter feed.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).