Anti-Semitic graffiti found at Airport Diner days before Rosh Hashanah

Community rallies to raise money for owner


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  • Photo courtesy of GoFundMe Anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalism was found at the Airport Diner Sunday morning.




  • Photo courtesy of GoFundMe The shed and outdoor freezer of the Airport Diner were broken into, and all of the food and supplies that were inside were destroyed.




  • Photo courtesy of GoFundMe An online campaign has raised almost $3,000 to help the owner of the Airport Diner clean up and repair the damage.



BY ERIKA NORTON

Residents in the Sussex/Wantage area woke up on Sunday morning to news of a grim discovery — the popular Airport Diner had been vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti and other restaurant property was destroyed.

Days before the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, black spray-painted Swastikas, “Heil Hitler,” and “Kill Jews” could be seen covering the walls of the diner, located on County Road 639 near the Sussex Airport. The shed and outdoor freezer were also broken into, and all of the food products and supplies that were inside were destroyed or thrown into the yard to spoil.

Hundreds of dollars of food and supplies were lost.

But only hours after the news broke of the incident, a GoFundMe online campaign was created to raise money to help the longtime owner of the Airport Diner, Francisco "Frankie" Blanco, pay to repair the damage.

In one day, over $2,800 had already been raised.

“This community has come together to make it known that hate does not belong here. And it never will,” wrote Ashley Craig, the lifelong Wantage resident who created the campaign. “This is OUR town.”

Local community responds“On behalf of the Township of Wantage, I want to provide my heartfelt sadness to the owners and employees of the Airport Diner,” Jonathan Morris, the mayor of the Township of Wantage, said on Monday. “This type of hatred is not tolerated, and I have faith that the NJ State Police will find the individuals responsible for this heinous act. Wantage is a close-knit community, and I ask that we come together to not allow these types of views shape our community.”

The Jewish Community Centers of Sussex County, including President of the Congregation B'nai Shalom Of Sussex County, Robert Levy, and the Director of Chabad of Sussex County, Rabbi Mendel Dubov, released a joint statement about the incident Monday.

“Actions such as these and their hate-filled messages strike against the heart of everything we as Americans and Jews hold sacred and true,” the statement read. “Acts of this magnitude cannot be tolerated in our communities.

“As residents and neighbors, the Sussex County Jewish Community calls upon our fellow residents and neighbors to stand against all acts of hatred and bigotry wherever and towards whomever they are directed.”

Other state officials reacted to the news.

Senator Steve Oroho, State Assemblyman Parker Space, and Assembly candidate Hal Wirths released a joint statement.

“An assault on any member of our community is an assault on us all,” the statement read. “This was a despicable act of vandalism in which property was destroyed and defaced. But it went further, in that it attempted to degrade and debase a religion.

“As members of this community, we are disgusted by this act of racist and anti-Semitic barbarism,” the statement continued. “We stand with the business owners and employees, and offer them our support and assistance. As for those who committed this criminal act, we trust that the good officers of the law will bring you to justice.”

Representative Josh Gottheimer said he “was shocked and horrified to learn about the anti-Semitic, white supremacist graffiti left on the Airport Diner in Wantage. Hate and intolerance have no place in our community and country, a nation founded on the core value that all religious and ethnic backgrounds are welcomed.”

The incident is currently under investigation by New Jersey State Police. Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact the NJ State Police Sussex Barracks at 973-383-1515.

According to Craig, Frankie and his diner staff are already so grateful for all of the support they have received from the community. Those who wish to donate to the GoFundMe fundraiser can still do so at gofundme.com/airport-diner-relief-efforts.

Unity vigil plannedIn addition, in light of the incident, a rally called “Unity Vigil Against Hate in Sussex County” is planned for this Sunday, Sept. 24. Organized by Action Together Sussex County, the event will be held at the Newton Green in Newton at 3 p.m.

The group posted on their Facebook page Wednesday, “We have been putting a lot of work into reaching out to everyone and we really hope it's well attended and we can show just how many of us will come together and make a stance against hate.”



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