LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP — After hearing about the on Saturday, Donald Pripstein, president of the Jewish Community Center of LBI said he wanted to know more. “We're trying to find out — what are their intentions?”
On Monday, he got his answer and a lot more. “When I came into the center I was shown a letter emailed there from proswastika.org,” he said. They are the organization responsible for having the banner plane flown from New York City to Brigantine and back on Saturday afternoon.
The emailed letter from Ricky Roehr, president of the North American Raelian Movement, had been posted on the group’s Web site the night before and was titled, “Letter to the President of the Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island.”
It was the Raeleins who funded the flyover as part of their annual Swastika Rehabilitation Day.
The letter in part said:
“….Our 70,000+ members world wide are extremely sympathetic to the horrors suffered by the Jewish people at the hands of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. We work incessantly so that nothing of the sort will ever be able to take place again - for Jews or any peoples.
Our objective in this annual "Swastika Rehabilitation Day" is to do just that - rehabilitate the image of this very ancient symbol which has, in recent decades, been equated only with Hitler's horrors.”
After reading the entire letter Pripstein said he had no reason to doubt their intentions. However, “This (incident) was extremely painful and disturbing to those who have experienced the loss of life during the Holocaust.” Pripstein went on to say the event was done in extremely bad taste and understands how it incensed all Jewish people, including him.
What he could not fathom though was why he was singled out by the group in their response and why other Jewish leaders had not spoken out publicly. “I can not understand how with all the major congregations this plane flew over, they singled our little congregation here on Long Beach Island,” he said. In Atlantic City and Margate there are much larger congregations, let alone New York, why didn’t they speak out, the JCC president asked.
“I’ve gotten seven, maybe 10 calls from reporters about it since the letter came,” he said. In addition, the JCC president appeared on TV's News 12 lNew Jersey last night. He also said he has had friends tell him stories that his statement that appeared here first went nationwide and one person even saw it on a news site in England.
“What really disturbs me about this is these people are delighted with the publicity they are getting,” he said of the Raelians. Before they probably just had their day, nobody noticed and they went away, he added.
The plane’s banner, which was seen and photographed up and down the Jersey Shore and New York City, displayed a swastika followed by a peace sign and than equals a heart. This was followed by the group’s Web site and then a swastika entwined in the Star of David.
The last one is the symbol of the Raelian Movement, whose followers believe man is descended from extraterrestrials.
In a final bit of irony, this past weekend was the dedication of the center’s new complex in Spray Beach.