LACKAWAXEN, PA – Meir Hershkop reached out his hand and
agreed to talk about the swastikas he found after returning to his
summer camp for children on June 27.
The 48-year-old walked by the cabin where he’s staying with his
assistant, Michal. The emblem of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party had been
sprayed in white on the cabin’s red siding. Beside the swastika the
vandal(s) had sprayed an anarchy sign.
Hershkop pointed out a swastika on a doormat, one on the window of
a storm door and one on a nearby picnic table. The word “Nazi” had
been sprayed on the table’s bench.
“Heil Hitler” had been sprayed in the grass, and the culprits had
broken into a building, stolen Hebrew Bibles, ripped out pages and
strewn them by the entrance gate to the not-for-profit camp, Machne
Menachem, which sits in a secluded 87-acre valley along the Upper
Meir and Michal were busily preparing for the 350 children who would
arrive on July 7 for eight weeks of summer camp. Hershkop took a
break, stepped out of the rain under the roof of a porch and began
talking about the history of the camp.
He and his partners purchased the property in 1997. This incident,
which Hershkop described as an “accident,” is the first of its kind to
occur here, though once before some thieves broke in and stole a
charity box that contained $13.00.
“But this, I think this is a shame. It’s very sad,” he said. “I hope it’s
not going to happen again.”
Hershkop belongs to a liberal community of Hasidic Jews. Before he
moved to the United States from Israel, he worked as a counselor for
“Me and my partners decided that it was most important that every
child has a chance to go to summer camp,” he said. Machne Menachem provides opportunities for kids to go to camp, even if their parents can’t afford the $1,500 tuition. Families are asked to pay as much as they can, Hershkop said.
“I knew what it was like for kids to not be able to go to camp,” he
said. “I decided to do something.”
What would he say to the people responsible for the vandalism?
“I would invite them here and I would talk to them. They don’t know
what this means,” he said, referring to the swastikas. “They don’t
know what it means to be a Jew, or who Hitler was.”
Indeed the signs seem to indicate different, even contradictory
messages. Beside the anarchy sign, the vandal(s) spray-painted the
words, “Nazis suck.”
He said there have been no complaints about the camp from the
community. “I’m trying to be nice. I think the people in the area are
very nice. There have been no complaints,” he said.
One neighbor donated a Chevy Blazer for use at the camp.
Walking on the grounds of Machne Menachem, Hershkop said he
would continue happily with his work at the camp.
“If you wake up in the morning and you can smile, then you should
be happy,” he said.
About the vandals, he said, “I would invite them here, and I would