Anti-Semitic and Racist Graffiti, Fliers, Banner Plague Luzerne County, Pennsylvania

  • April 15, 2008


A wave of anti-Semitic and racist fliers and incidents of vandalism has plagued towns throughout Luzerne County, Pennsylvania in the first four months of 2008. The Keystone State Skinheads (KSS), a racist skinhead group based in Pennsylvania, have posted racist fliers throughout neighborhoods and hung a banner promoting their white supremacist ideology over a highway in early April. In a separate incident, a local 18-year-old girl faces charges for spray painting a synagogue and vacant building with swastikas and anti-Semitic language, including words that the Nazis used to describe Jews during the Holocaust.

In January 2008, KSS members posted racist fliers throughout Wilkes-Barre that suggested that the presence of minorities in the community will lead to "Drugs, Crime, Graffiti, Trash-Covered Streets," as well as "gangs and violence." In a post and photos on the KSS Website, the group claimed responsibility for the fliers and stated, "These problems are the direct result of large segments of the non-white community moving into our neighborhoods and replacing the people and the culture that have created these beautiful areas. They are bringing their destructive influences into our neighborhoods and causing our communities to quickly resemble New York City & Philadelphia, assisted by the degenerate and blind elements that live amongst us."

Two months later, in late March 2008, two teenage girls allegedly targeted Congregation Ohav Zedek, a Wilkes-Barre synagogue by spray painting a star of David, swastikas and defamatory language on its doors, including the words "abschaum," German for "scum," and "Juden," German for Jews, which was written on the yellow stars that Nazis forced European Jews to wear during World War II. The community responded quickly; the Greater Jewish Federation and the Anti-Defamation League offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest/conviction; the Wilkes-Barre police deemed the act a hate crime and involved the FBI in the investigation.

KSS members were not involved in the synagogue vandalism. On the group's Website, however, a post explains that although the KSS "do not condone these types of incidents [they] acknowledge that these types of things are caused directly by the ostracizing and alienation of white youth by society for their refusal to accept multiculturalism and diversity."

On April 2, a swastika and the words "Hitler was right" were found spray painted on a vacant building owned by an Ohav Zedek member, the day before a community ceremony to remove the anti-Semitic graffiti from the synagogue.

The next day, April 3, following a tip given to police by a local teenage male two days earlier, authorities arrested Nora Rynkeiwicz, an 18-year-old resident of Factoryville, and an unidentified 17-year-old teenage female for the acts of anti-Semitic vandalism against Ohav Zedek and the vacant building. Rynkeiwicz, out on bail after a brief prison stay, faces charges of institutional vandalism, criminal mischief, ethnic intimidation, and criminal conspiracy. In a search of her home on April 1, police reportedly found spray paint cans, which they believe were used to deface the buildings. The 17-year-old, who claims minor participation in the vandalism, will be charged in a juvenile court.

Rynkeiwicz espouses a neo-Nazi ideology, according to friends and her MySpace page, which reportedly included swastikas, the words "WHITE SOLDIERS," and Hitler listed as a hero. A classmate told the Pennsylvania-based Citizen's Voice that Rynkeiwicz "used to harass us at school. She used to tell us Hitler was a great person."

The spree of incidents did not end with the arrest of Rynkeiwicz and her alleged accomplice. Just days later, local newspapers reported sightings of racist fliers in Pittston, Shickshinny, and Port Griffith, all towns in Luzerne County. Reportedly, the fliers targeted diversity as "destroying the unique characteristics of every individual group that it's being forced upon, especially our own…Diversity is not our strength. It is our weakness, and it is leading to the corruption of everything our ancestors worked so hard and fought for." The individual responsible for the fliers remains unknown; however, the KSS website was printed at the bottom of them.

The KSS reappeared on April 6, when a banner saying "PRESERVE OUR HERITAGE" and promoting the KSS Website was found hanging from a bridge over a Wilkes-Barre highway. Photos on the group's Website reveal KSS members creating an identical sign and similar banners. The captions beneath the photos say, "Activism in Wilkes-Barre."