Posters defaced

The defiling of dozens of his campaign posters with swastikas and Stars of David last weekend is “no political stunt,” says an Israeli American businessman whose grandparents were killed in the Holocaust.

David Heller, who is running for San Francisco supervisor, vows to track down whoever is responsible. “In due time, we’ll find out who did this. I will find that person,” he said.

“On Geary Boulevard there was a con artist. We busted him. We had a [graffiti] tagger and we got him too. It took a year,” added Heller, the president of the Geary Boulevard Merchants Association and a candidate for District 1, which is primarily in the Richmond District.

Heller, who lost all four of his grandparents in the Holocaust, said he has been hit hard by the vandalism. At a press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 4, he frequently choked back tears as several of his fellow candidates, including incumbent Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, rallied to his support.

“There’s no way any of us can tolerate this crap,” said McGoldrick as he embraced Heller at the conference.

Retired Judge Lillian Sing said the vandalism was the work of “cowards who crawl out in the night like the scum of the earth,” while fellow Jewish candidate Matt Tuchow said the graffiti offended him “not just because of my religion but because this diminishes our humanity here in the Richmond District and in the city.”

A pen-wielding vandal or vandals defaced perhaps as many as 50 signs or the store windows they were posted behind late Saturday night, July 31. Police have confirmed only 15 incidents, but the exact number is difficult to tabulate, said Inspector Sally DeHaven, as outraged storeowners and citizens cleaned up a number of the swastikas without informing the police.

Although the incident has drawn Heller a torrent of support and sympathetic media coverage, he emphasized that the vandalism was not his doing.

“Oh God no. I’ve got nothing to do with that, swear to God, man. My mother and father lost their entire families in the Holocaust; I never had a grandfather or aunts and uncles,” he told j. before the press conference.

“It’s not that important for me to get elected. I’ve been doing well without being a supervisor.”

Heller added that the merchants association will post a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandal or vandals — and Heller promised a bigger reward if he could raise the money.

None of the candidates offered a firm answer on how the graffiti would alter the race. Regarding any boost to Heller’s chances, Tuchow said he believes “the voters are very discerning. They will evaluate the candidates based on their attributes.”

Jonathan Bernstein, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the vandalism demonstrates that San Francisco, despite its liberal, tolerant reputation, has a problem with acts of anti-Semitism.

“I’m hoping people won’t react with ‘Oh my God, how could this happen in San Francisco?’ because it happens a lot in San Francisco. People need to realize that we’ve had our disproportionate share of anti-Semitic elements in this city,” said Bernstein, who was also at the press conference. “People need to stop being so shocked when they hear about every incident. It’s time for [people] to get involved in a whole myriad of activities to counter this.”

The strong message against racism delivered at the press conference was a good start, he added. Along with BlueStar P.R., the ADL is releasing a poster to combat anti-Semitism to be placed in windows.

While many of the speakers called upon the San Francisco Police Department to track down those responsible, Bernstein noted that graffiti vandals operating in the wee hours are rarely caught. DeHaven, however, said anyone with information should contact her, at (415) 553-9140.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.