Hate comes to town: Claremont driveways littered with antisemitic flyers

by Mick Rhodes | editor@claremont-courier.com

Claremont residents awoke Saturday to find antisemitic flyers left on their driveways in an apparent random, anonymous act.

One of the flyers distributed on Via Zurita Street and Radcliffe Drive intimated Jews are behind the pornography industry. Another parroted the “protocols of the learned elders of Zion,” an antisemitic hoax fabricated in Russia in 1903.

Jason Moss, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, said the flyers mirror those distributed throughout the United States for more than a year.

“But this one is one of the most grotesque depictions that I have seen because of the nature of what it is assuming and displaying,” Moss said on Monday.

Previous flyers found on driveways from Glendale to Rancho Cucamonga have blamed Jews for everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to flaws in the U.S. immigration policy, Moss said.

Jason Moss, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. Photo/courtesy of the Jewish Federation

“Upland seems to have gotten hit the most as of late,” Moss said. “Until I got your email today, I didn’t realize Claremont had actually been hit.”

The Claremont Police Department is investigating the incident, but a spokesman told the Courier it’s unlikely charges will be filed, as the flyers make no direct threats against any group or person, and therefore do not quality as hate speech.

Antisemitism is on the rise. According the Anti-Defamation League’s latest analysis, the U.S. saw 2,717 antisemitic incidents in 2021, a 34% increase over 2020. It represents the highest number of such incidents recorded since the ADL began tracking them in 1979.

So why is this happening now?

“The flyers, in my opinion, what’s dangerous about them, not only that they’re obnoxious and disgusting in singling out Jews in all sorts of ways, is that they try to normalize antisemitism,” said Rabbi Jonathan Kupetz of Temple Beth Israel in Pomona.

Moss agreed.

“I think the genie is out of the bottle,” he said. “I don’t want to say it’s become acceptable, but people are feeling more comfortable sharing their perspectives.”

Both Moss and Kupetz stopped short of pointing the finger at a particular political party or ideology for the rise in antisemitism.

Antisemitism is often couched in “anti-Zionism,” which can come from the political left or right, Kupetz contends. According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Zionism is “a prejudice against the Jewish movement for self-determination and the right of the Jewish people to a homeland in the State of Israel.” These tropes include assertions that Zionists control the media, Congress, and were behind 9/11, Kupetz said.

“All of those things have been widely out in the media,” Kupetz said. “And while they don’t use the word ‘Jew,’ and while certainly somebody can criticize Israel in all sorts of ways and it’s not antisemitic, when it’s the same antisemitic tropes disguised as anti-Zionism, then from the perspective of most Jews, and the perspective of the state of California, and the United States government, and others, that’s antisemitism as well.”

Moss penned a December 1 Courier op-ed, “Jews need allies in confronting antisemitism,” imploring folks to stand up against hatred.

“It’s been going on far before President Trump got into office, but you have more and more people becoming comfortable espousing [hate],” Moss said Monday. “And, up until recently … you have less people standing up, except for the Jewish community. So the purpose of my op-ed was to really say look, you have the opportunity as individuals if you don’t like hatred to stand with those that are being targeted, and the power that that can bring to draw more attention to an incident like this.”

Rabbi Jonathan Kupetz of Temple Beth Israel in Pomona. Photo/courtesy of TBI

Both Kupetz and Moss lamented recent speech by celebrities such as Kanye West as helping to embolden antisemites in American society.

“What’s mainstreamed antisemitism is that people feel they can be antisemitic without being ostracized from their communities,” Kupetz said. “That wasn’t true a decade ago.”

Moss believes the Claremont flyers emanated from someone who lives nearby, “which is appalling,” he said. “And it’s getting people really concerned and frustrated. And it’s not just the Jewish community, because it’s just one more form of hatred that’s being directed toward Jews.”

TBI cantor Paul Buch has also borne witness to the anger and anxiety the flyers have provoked.

“The most painful aspect for me is to receive calls or emails from members of our community who find this crap in their driveway and feel personally targeted,” Buch said. “I think there is room for a public civic statement that this is an anathema and has no place in ours or any community. We should feel this way if any group is specifically targeted, but it seems to be the Jews’ season currently.”

The perpetrators of the hateful flyers are being incentivized by an antisemitic group with promises of free merchandise if their efforts result in media coverage that mentions the organization by name, Moss said.

“If you remember from January 6, the ‘camp Auschwitz,’” Moss said. “It’s things like that. Shirts. Hats. All kind of things, merchandise just espousing hate, white power, and so forth.”

So, what can we do?

“Basically, reporting,” Moss said. “I think every single person can report it to the police, and also hold our elected officials accountable to responding. Because in many ways the more people that can stand up and say ‘We’re disgusted by this, this is why we think it is wrong, and we denounce it,’ it draws more people’s attention to it. At the same time it’s starting to show more people that this is not right and we have to work together to do it.”

Moss’ organization is currently working on a plan to reach out to elected officials and suggest steps they can take to denounce hatred of all kinds, he said.

Claremont City Council member Jennifer Stark did just that at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“I think it’s important that we emphatically condemn hate speech and hate propaganda and antisemitism and racism in all of its forms,” Stark said. “I am completely repelled and disgusted by getting photographs of these flyers while I’m out of town from my friends and neighbors. That kind of hatred has no place in Claremont, has no place in California, has no place in the United States of America, has no place in the world, and the only way that we will root it out is to very clearly keep on distinguishing that our freedom of speech does not give us the right to threaten and spread lies about other groups of people that have been threatened and harmed.”

Moss conceded eradicating antisemitism will take more than simply calling it out.

“But it’s something that people can do and feel a part of the solution versus just allowing the problem to continue,” he said. “We have some power. And I think people forget that they actually have power with their voice. As a society we have an opportunity and an obligation to call it out for what it is. And that’s where the elected officials could come in; that’s where you and the media can call it out as well and say, ‘Look, is this who we are as a society? Is this what Claremont is? Is this who we are?

“Shame is a powerful thing.”

According to the Justice Department, the vast majority of religious hate crimes in American are committed against Jews. In the face of these threats, police have advised synagogues across the country to bolster security.

At Pomona’s Temple Beth Israel, security guards are now onsite.

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