When Esther Cohen-Eskin discovered a swastika spray-painted on her trash can in front of her suburban Pennsylvania home, she felt targeted and alone. But then something extraordinary happened.
When Esther Cohen-Eskin, a Jewish woman living in Havertown, Pennsylvania, discovered a swastika spray-painted on her trash bin on the morning of August 19, she knew it was an act of anti-Semitism because hers was the only home targeted. But instead of erasing it and going about her routine, she asked her friends and neighbors to combat the hate by painting their own trash bins as well. Soon, the whole town painted their cans in support and before she knew it, Cohen-Eskin had inspired people around the world to combat hate by painting their trash bins with flowers, hearts, birds and butterflies..
“It’s not like someone wrote some obscenity on my trash can or gave me the finger,” she said in a telephone interview. “The swastika is such a deep-rooted sign of hatred for everyone, especially Judaism, that I felt so targeted.”
She immediately informed her husband and then called the police, who have opened an investigation into the hate-crime.
When Cohen-Eskin called a friend for advice, he told her: “The only way to triumph hate is with love.”
Being an artist, Cohen-Eskin decided to paint over the swastika with flowers. She then asked her neighbors to paint their trash bins as well, turning symbols of hate into symbols of love.
“We decided that painting something over this … it kind of made the swastika completely meaningless,” Cohen-Eskin said.
“I still get goosebumps,” said Megan Connell, one of Cohen-Eskin’s neighbors. “I had to explain to my three-year-old that someone could do something so ugly, and we took it as a family thing.”
As word spread across town, people online started passing around Cohen-Eskin’s story. Shortly after asking her neighbors for help, she received hundreds of messages and phone calls from people as far away as Canada, Germany, and Ireland. Many sent pictures of trash cans they painted in a show of support.
A tough part of Cohen-Eskin’s request was that neighbors first paint a swastika, and then cover it with images of love and peace. Connell said that part of the task was “very, very difficult.”
“It’s something you would never want to put ever, and not anything I ever thought I would be painting on anything,” she said.
“I was so sad and I just wanted to do anything I could do to help,” said Jenny Farley, recalling how Cohen-Eskin and her husband were friendly when Farley moved next door a few years ago. “I think everyone came together and said, ‘How can we support them?'”
Now, Cohen-Eskin continues to receive new pictures of beautifully painted bins from all over the world.
“It gave me a whole new reassurance in humanity,” she said. “I feel invigorated by all the love. It’s exciting … it makes you feel there’s so much good out there.”
By: World Israel News. With files from AP.