Swastika on San Bruno garage viewed by police as hate crime

Nancy Weber went out to walk her dogs Sunday and discovered a large red swastika painted on the garage door of her San Bruno home.

Weber, a 37-year-old technical writer, doesn't know who's responsible, but she had been having conflicts with neighbors who allegedly blocked her driveway.

"Things were escalating," said Weber, who was questioned by the FBI on Tuesday.

Detective Sgt. Craig McKee-Parks said the San Bruno Police Department is classifying the incident as a hate crime. Although he said it isn't clear whether the neighbors knew Weber was Jewish, the defacement "may have been a parting shot" by a neighbor who moved out last weekend. The former neighbor had not yet been questioned at press time.

Weber, who described the swastika as "3 feet in circumference," said such defacement is a new experience for her. "I have grown up in the Bay Area, lived here most of my life, and never experienced not even the slightest hint of anti-Semitism."

But Abbie Wolf, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League's regional office, said, "These kinds of incidents don't only happen to synagogues or institutions. Many times they happen to individuals."

Wolf said 43 anti-Semitic incidents have been reported during 1997 in the Central Pacific region served by ADL's San Francisco office; the majority have occurred in Northern California.

She is pleased that the police are viewing the attack on Weber's home as a hate crime.

"The tricky part is proving primary motivation," she said. To classify an incident as a hate crime, police must prove that the primary motivation was hatred of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability.

Weber said she has had arguments with neighbors over parking and had contacted police several days before the incident.

"It had gotten a bit nastier than ever before," she said. "I feel totally over my head."

She said she been open about being Jewish among her neighbors. "I have a mezuzah on my door. When my neighbors wish me `Merry Christmas,' I say, `Thank you, but I'm Jewish.'"

She grew up in a Reform home in San Jose, with a strong Jewish identity. "We had a lot of pride in being Jewish. We never felt left out not celebrating Christmas."

A Zionist, she spent 10 years living in Israel and received a degree in Jewish history from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"My first thought was, I'm moving back to Israel. But they do this in Israel, too," she said.

"I'm very frightened and very angry," she added. "The fact that it happened around Martin Luther King Day really brought home his message."