Antisemitic flyers were distributed throughout Charlottesville’s Barracks Rugby and Venable neighborhoods over the weekend, in what appears to be part of a national public relations stunt by the Goyim Defense League hate group.
Congregation Beth Israel, Charlottesville’s only synagogue whose temple is the oldest still standing in the commonwealth, warned its congregants Monday morning to “be aware of their own personal safety when in public and at their home.”
Former Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, who is Jewish, told The Daily Progress his street was in one of the neighborhoods the campaign targeted. He said he found the leaflets scattered on several nearby driveways on Saturday morning as he walked out to fetch the morning newspaper.
He said he ran across the street to grab a flyer that had been thrown on his neighbor’s driveway. “She wasn’t going to be interested in receiving that.”
Signer, who served as mayor during the deadly Unite the Right rally-turned-riot when neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates descended on downtown Charlottesville in 2017, said he has heard of such messages showing up in other places in America.
“We have seen a lot of this kind of thing,” he said on Monday. “I know what’s happening all around the country with this kind of activity. It is obviously upsetting to see it come right here to Charlottesville.”
The leaflets distributed in Charlottesville were sealed in plastic bags filled with corn kernels in an apparent attempt to keep them from blowing away. “Every single aspect of the media is Jewish,” they read. “6 Jewish corporations own 96% of the media.” Printed below that is a list of major media companies and the names of Jewish employees, regardless of whether they are still employed there or not.
The leaflets also have an advertisement for Goyim TV, a video platform owned by the Goyim Defense League and operated by self-proclaimed white supremacist Jon Minadeo II.
Minadeo, who uses the pseudonym “Handsome Truth,” could best be described as an internet troll. A high school dropout, by his own account, Minadeo has an IMDB page online which suggests a brief career in poorly reviewed, low-budget comedies made before he ventured into the publication of conspiracy theories.
His website, Goyim TV, is a crude version of YouTube with videos called “Joe Biden Wants To Eliminate White People” and “Jewish Domination of the Slave Trades,” among other lies, discredited conspiracies and what can only be described as nonsense.
Minadeo’s best-known work is a banner his group claims it hung last year across a Los Angeles freeway that read, “Kanye is right about the Jews.” The rapper formerly known as Kanye West had earlier previously engaged in several rants on podcasts and social media attacking Jews.
Though Minadeo was previously based in California’s Bay Area, he has since moved to Florida. His organization’s mission remains the same.
“GDL’s overarching goal is to cast aspersions on Jews and spread antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories,” according to an Anti-Defamation League report.
“They’ve been doing this in six states and came to Virginia within the past six months,” Bruce Hoffman, director of the Center for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University, told The Daily Progress on Monday. “There were incidents this fall in Virginia Beach and Lynchburg that were identical to what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend.”
There were more incidents than that.
Newspapers up and down the East Coast on Monday, from West Palm Beach, Florida, to Rochester, New York, were reporting that antisemitic flyers had been discovered in their cities.
Antisemitic hate crimes are on the rise nationally, with a total of 2,717 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism reported to the Anti-Defamation League in 2021, the most recent figures available.
Charlottesville has not been immune. Residents have reported antisemitic stickers appearing on street signs and utility poles around the city.
On Oct. 25, surveillance cameras captured a young man removing a “Welcome Jewish Students” banner hanging from the door of the Rohr Chabad House, which is a “home away from home” for the school’s Jewish students and community, according to its website. The suspect was never identified, according to university police.
Truman Brody-Boyd, assistant director of development at the Brody Jewish Center at the University of Virginia, said the members at the center have not noticed any antisemitic acts locally since the sign incident. Hearing about the most recent incident was unsettling, he said.
“To be Jewish in America these days is to experience antisemitism, and [we] can feel a little bit of insecurity,” Brody-Boyd said. “Of course we do everything we can to support our students and make sure they feel safe and secure at all times.”
Brody-Boyd said the center will maintain its usual safety measures, which are designed to protect its community from standard safety concerns as well as antisemitic threats.
Congregation Beth Israel has encouraged its members to attend the synagogue’s periodic security trainings, which include “Situation Awareness,” “Run, Hide, Fight,” “Stop the Bleed” and “White Supremacist Threat.”
While it’s true that Minadeo and his followers have not been responsible for any violence yet, that doesn’t mean it isn’t the group’s ultimate aim, said Georgetown’s Hoffman.
“There hasn’t been any violence to date. There’s been obnoxious and outrageous theatrical antics, but no violence,” he said. “But, the message of this kind of leafleting is to generate hatred and intolerance with a view toward targeting members of our society for their religion or ethnic identity.”
Virginia Republicans Del. Terry Kilgore and state Sen. Bryce Reeves have introduced bills in the House of Delegates and state Senate, respectively, that would enforce higher criminal penalties for antisemitic hate crimes and require those crimes be entered into a database maintained by the Virginia State Police.
On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Reeves’ bill to the Finance and Appropriations Committee, which will review the proposed legislation later this week.
While Virginia’s elected officials push for legislation in Richmond, Hoffman said Charlottesville should focus on supporting its Jewish community.
“In the short term, I think communities have to stand together and refuse to allow their neighbors to be intimidated or harassed or be made to feel like they’re unwelcome or don’t belong in the community,” Hoffman said. “In the long term, I think we need digital literacy, teaching the children in schools to be able to research facts and get authoritative information from recognized sources.”