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California Towns Hit with Antisemitic Flyers During Hanukkah

On the third day of Hanukkah, residents in the Sherwood Forest neighborhood, not far from Modesto’s only synagogue, woke to find antisemitic flyers on their driveways. The flyers were stuffed in clear plastic zip-lock bags and weighted with chicken feed. They contained hateful content similar to what has previously been distributed in Modesto and throughout the state and country. It’s at least the third time in Modesto that hate material has been distributed in the past six months, said Congregation Beth Shalom Rabbi Shalom Bochner.

“The individuals who do this are trying to stir up hate. They are trying out frightened people and I would never want to give them any sense of satisfaction,” he said when asked if he would discuss it at Tuesday night’s public menorah lighting outside the Gallo Center for the Arts downtown. “They have certainly not scared me; they have increased my determination to spread light and proud Jewish identity.”

“Unfortunately, we are living in a time of increasing hate speech and violent acts and 60% of reported hate crimes in this country are focused on the Jewish community despite the fact that we are 2% of the country’s population and 0.2% of the world population,” he said. Hate groups have accused the Jewish community of having total control over the media, immigration, the weather, politics and more. The flyers distributed Tuesday made accusations that the faith controlled “every single aspect of Disney Child Grooming” and the “LGBTQ movement.” They also included photos of prominent Jewish people with stars of David superimposed on their foreheads.

Modesto police said people should report these incidents so they can be documented and, in some cases, investigated as possible hate crimes. While the hateful material is mostly protected under free speech, threats and inciting violence are not, said Sgt. Kalani Souza.

Even if it does not rise to that level, there are littering charges or municipal code violations that can be pursued for going door-to-door without a permit. It appears the people behind Tuesday’s flyers were attempting to avoid some legal trouble by including the disclaimer: “These flyers were distributed randomly without malicious intent.” But the content is certainly malicious, Bochner said, and more people need to call it out for what it is: “Complete untruths that stir hate and promote violence.” “People look the other way when there is hateful rhetoric. We are aiding and abetting if we are not responding,” he said. “City government should respond to these incidents; there should be public statements made.”

A few days prior, residents in Redding reported receiving similar flyers (pictured above). The Jewish advocacy group StopAntiemitism tweeted the the white supremacist group ‘Goyim Defense League’ was responsible for the ongoing national antisemitic flyer drop campaigns, orchestrated by the group’s leader, Jon Minadeo II.