Eugene Markovitz of blessed memory was rabbi of Clifton Jewish Center in Clifton New Jersey. Thirty years ago, as part of a Halloween prank, four teenage boys defaced Rabbi Markovitz’s synagogue, Rabbi Markovitz’s home, a kosher meat market and the car of an elderly Jew. Using shaving cream and blue paint, the teenagers scrawled swastikas and Jewish stars along with messages such as: “Hitler should have killed you all”, “Go back to your own country” and “I hate Jews”. They were soon apprehended by Clifton Police. Far from being neo-Nazis, all four were from middle class homes. One was the son of a dentist, the second was the son of a teacher, the third was the son of a banker, and the fourth was the son of a police officer. Superior Court Judge Frank Donato was prepared to send the four to juvenile prison for two years. Before pronouncing sentence, Judge Donato consulted Rabbi Markovitz. Contrary to the wishes of the butcher and the car owner, Rabbi Markovitz prevailed upon the Judge to suspend the sentence, provided the four meet with the rabbi for a specific period of time, during which he would teach them about Judaism and anti-Semitism. Six years later, the episode was turned into “The Writing on the Wall” a CBS “School break Special. Hal Linden played the role of the rabbi.
I thought of Rabbi Markovitz recently (He addressed our Men’s Club some twenty years ago) while reading about Joey Cassano, a New York firefighter who “voluntarily” quit his job as an EMT five years ago, when racist and anti-Semitic tweets of his (“I like Jews about as much as Hitler”) came to light. After leaving his job, Joey Cassano met regularly with Rabbi Steven Burg, who was director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Joey Cassano was recently re-instated as an EMT. He will be working at Engine 247 on 60th Street in Borough Park Brooklyn – the very epicenter of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn.
As one who has visited prisons on any number of occasions, I have very little use for them – especially when they are incarcerating those found guilty of hate crimes (provided of course the criminals caused no bodily harm). Even though I am neither a judge nor an officer (see Deuteronomy 16:18), I believe that the most effective way to disarm one who has been charged with a hate crime is to have that person roll up his sleeves and get to work in a neighborhood dominated by those whom he hates so deeply in his heart.
Let those charged with hate crimes against blacks, be required to spend say, 100 hours in Hamilton Park, where they will attend African American church services, meet with locals at the community center, have dinner with residents (ideally local residents would find it within their hearts to invite a bigot for a meal) and become a big brother or big sister to a child.
Let those charged with hate crimes against Muslims (some might find it hard to believe, but there are Muslims in this country whose sole agenda is to carve out a better lives for themselves. Unlike others whose objective is to take over this country and impose Sharia Law, there are good, decent and honorable Muslims who fled their countries of origin because they saw Muslim leadership as being nothing more than corrupt, murderous thugs. These Muslims have absolutely no political agenda and some actually side with Israel. Understandably, they are afraid to say so openly) be required to spend time in the older section of Richardson near the Mosque where they will spend time working in a halal store. There, they will have the opportunity to see that the chief concern of a good many of newcomers to Dallas is that their children cannot speak Arabic, have no interest in the customs and culture of their countries of origin and have lost their taste for grilled lamb.
I once read that hatred is greater than love. Those whom we hate occupy our minds far more than those whom we love. Being jailed for a hate crime will give the perpetrator more time to think … and hate. Placing the perpetrator into the very midst of those whom they hate might just remove the hatred from their minds and find a special place for those very same people in their hearts.