On the morning of Nov. 13, 1988, Adele Goldberg got up and walked outside, only to find, spray-painted on the door of her garage, a large, crude, anti-Semitic graffito framed by swastikas.
In the year and a half since, Goldberg, 31, said, life just hasn’t been the same.
“The fear has been the worst,” she said Monday. “And I’ve kind of condemned myself for being Jewish. I’ve had to work hard . . . not to blame myself for being Jewish.”
Goldberg’s San Carlos residence was vandalized in the same attack that did $5,000 worth of damage to the Tifereth Israel Synagogue, the walls of which were covered with such slogans as “Adolph (sic) Hitler Lives,” “America Befor (sic) Israel” and “Love Skinheads.”
About a year after the attack, Goldberg filed a $4-million lawsuit against the six minors who perpetrated the act--including the 16-year-old from Los Angeles who guided them--and the parents or guardians of all of those involved.
One of the six and her parents recently settled out of court, paying Goldberg $35,000, according to court documents. But no settlement has been reached with the other five, and Goldberg’s attorney, Jeffrey S. Schwartz, said he and his client are determined to take the matter to trial, if necessary.
“If we have to take it to a jury, we will,” Schwartz said. “It’s in the interests of all of the parties to resolve it without that. Adele doesn’t want to relive it, but, if we have to go to trial, we will. Justice will be done.”
Schwartz labeled as “insufficient and inadequate” the punishment meted out by the Juvenile Court, which asked the five San Diego minors to perform “a few hours of community service” and pay restitution ranging from $20 to $25 per defendant. The 16-year-old ringleader from the San Fernando Valley community of Chatsworth was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and pay $135 in restitution.
Goldberg said that “just doesn’t cover” the damage she suffered, not just to her home but to her mind as well.
In court documents filed a month ago, she listed medical expenses related to the incident at $7,118. She said she has seen a therapist at least once a week since November, 1988, and is taking a prescribed medication of anti-depressants.
Schwartz said the lawsuit is noteworthy in terms of what it symbolizes. He said that, in other areas of the nation as well, the targets of anti-Semitic attacks and other so-called “hate” crimes, are turning in ever-increasing numbers to civil courts as the method of fighting back.
He conceded that part of the motive in the Goldberg case is “to set an example, to show that such acts will not be tolerated.”
Morris Casuto, local head of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said victims of hate crimes are turning to civil courts as a way “of seeking appropriate redress,” given what he said are the shortcomings of the penal system in addressing such matters, particularly when it pertains to juveniles.
Casuto said the trend is having an impact nationally in curbing the incidence of hate crimes and dampening the activities of Skinheads in general.
Casuto said the Anti-Defamation League is one of several plaintiffs representing the estate of an Ethiopian immigrant allegedly beaten to death by Skinheads in Portland, Ore., in 1988. The defendants in that case include Tom Metzger, the Fallbrook TV repairman who heads the White Aryan Resistance, and his son, John Metzger, widely regarded as a Skinhead leader nationally.
Casuto said a new report by the ADL on Skinheads notes a distinct “flattening out” in membership, as well as a “slight diminution of violent acts.”
Schwartz said he had yet to establish a link between the defendants in Goldberg’s case to Tom Metzger, John Metzger or the White Aryan Resistance. However, Schwartz pointed out that several defendants dressed and wore their hair in a manner befitting Skinheads--that is, with shaved heads, “burr” or spiked haircuts, and black, heavily bejeweled clothing.
Keith Liker, the attorney for the female defendant who recently settled with Goldberg, said one of the six involved in the incident, the only member of the group not from San Diego, was a Skinhead, in ideology as well as clothing.
“My client was not involved with the Skinhead movement at all,” Liker said. “As for the other female defendants, I would call theirs more a case of youth-rebellion fashion than a statement of ideology, or racism.
“I hate to find a scapegoat, but, if I did, it would have to be the member of the group who came from Los Angeles. He was definitely a part of the Aryan Skinhead movement.”
Liker said his client “had run into” the other defendants at a party, and, several hours later, the group was spray-painting the synagogue, roughly a block and a half from Goldberg’s home. He said his client never left the car during the time Goldberg’s house was being “hit.”
“My client is very remorseful of the whole incident,” Liker said. “She attempted to apologize to the synagogue and to Adele Goldberg. She felt really bad about it.”
Goldberg said she never received a direct apology from any of the six defendants.
She equated the crime to a rape or a street mugging, in which, ultimately, the victim blames herself. She said her life since the attack has been “a nightmare.”
She said she stopped lighting candles Friday evenings in honor of the Jewish Shabbos . And, at night, she sleeps restlessly, if at all, she said, fearful that someone, once again, is lurking outside.
Goldberg said she took away and stored in her garage front-yard planters in the shape of the Star of David. She believes her home was targeted because of the planters, which pinpointed hers as a Jewish home.
A neighbor’s Cadillac was also defaced. Schwartz said the defendants admitted in depositions that they assumed the Cadillac was Goldberg’s, because, as Goldberg said, “They thought a Jew would drive a Cadillac.” Goldberg drives a pickup truck.
Goldberg, who lived alone at the time of the incident, was recently married. Even with her husband by her side, she said she can no longer watch documentaries about World War II that mention Adolf Hitler or the Holocaust. And, she finds it “next to impossible” to observe Judaism, which felt reassuring--as opposed to threatening--before the attack.
She said she first sought the help of a therapist when she found she couldn’t make it through a High Holy Days service without crying to the point of trembling.
“In many ways, my home has become a torture chamber,” she said. “But, at the same time, I refuse to give in, I refuse to leave. People ask me that all the time: ‘Why don’t you leave?’ But I won’t. As bad as it’s been, that really would be admitting defeat.
“It’s not fair. It’s my house, and I shouldn’t have to feel this way. I didn’t do anything to anybody. I just don’t deserve this.”