June 24, 2024
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June 24, 2024
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Antisemitism in My Backyard

During the past few years there has been a noticeable rise in antisemitism in the United States, and the Jewish community has been shocked by several acts of violence in Pittsburgh, Jersey City, Monsey and Poway. However, as troubling and horrifying as these incidents have been, they often don’t resonate as much as an antisemitic activity that occurs right in your community.

Last Sunday in Stamford, we experienced antisemitism right in our backyard–literally. And although no one was physically harmed, the psychological impact and the fear it evoked should not be minimized.

The Nationalist Social Club, or NSC-131, dropped offensive leaflets with racist and antisemitic language on the driveways of homes in several Jewish neighborhoods in Stamford. NSC-131 is a New England-based neo-Nazi group with chapters in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut and Vermont.

Its members see themselves as soldiers at war with a hostile, supposedly Jewish-controlled system they claim is plotting the extinction of the white race. The group regularly distributes replacement theory propaganda and holds small, localized flash demonstrations. Distributinging flyers is often used as a recruitment tool for the organization.

While our own home was not a target for this antisemitic action, several families we know received the leaflets on their driveway. The packages were plastic sandwich-style bags that contained rocks and a flier with hate speech inside. It was extremely upsetting to wake up on Sunday morning and read about this on our local WhatsApp group.

The reaction from public officials was gratifying. The day after the incident, Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons convened a meeting with members of the Stamford Police Department, Public Safety, and Diversity/Equity/Inclusion (DEI) members of her administration, as well as state representatives and leaders from faith and ethnic communities. She emphasized that Stamford has a zero tolerance policy for this sort of activity and that the city unequivocally condemns this behavior.

The United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien also denounced the Stamford flyers, asking anyone who may have a video from their home or doorbell cameras to turn the images over to Stamford police who are investigating the incident.

“Incidents of white supremacist propaganda distribution in Connecticut are at a historic high,” Connecticut Regional Director Stacey Sobel of the Anti-Definition League said. “Everyone must come together to reject hate and extremism and work toward creating a better community that does not exclude, marginalize, or target any person.”

Overall, incidents of antisemitic and white supremacist propaganda in Connecticut rose 115 % in 2022, according to a recent ADL report. The 207 incidents that occurred in 2022 included white supremacist stickers and flyers found at state parks, as well as flyers with racist and antisemitic messages found in residents’ yards. The National Socialist Club was responsible for 16 incidents.

My wife and I have lived in Stamford for 41 years, ever since we got married. And I’ve always felt very safe living in our community. (Truth be told, we even left our doors unlocked at night the first few years we lived in the community, which in retrospect was probably not the wisest decision, but gives you an idea about how foreign it was that anything bad could happen to us.) Stamford has a long history of tolerance, as Italians, Jews and African Americans have been living here together for decades without any incidents of racism. Jackie Robinson and his family made their home in Stamford for several decades.

However, things are very different now. Last Sunday’s events are a stark reminder that there are many people living right around the corner who are eager to blame the Jews for society’s ills, and who are adopting some of the worst anti-Semitic tropes and stereotypes you can imagine.

During the past decade, several of our friends—both young and old—have decided to make aliyah, and it’s not uncommon for these families to point to a creeping anti-Semitism they have witnessed as one of the main reasons for their decision to move to Israel. In the past, when I heard this, I tended to minimize the problem. However, when you witness antisemitism in your own backyard, it makes you think twice about this issue and gives more credence to the argument that the future is extremely bleak for diaspora Jews.

I also hope that the political divide in our country does not dilute the force of the united front that is required to address the scourge of antisemitism. When antisemitism originates from the right-wing elements of our society (Charlottesville or the National Socialists Club in Stamford), there is a tendency by more left-wing individuals to say, “You see, it’s the right-wingers who hate the Jews.” However, for every right-wing white supremacist who claims that Hitler was right and who wouldn’t mind seeing Jews incinerated in the ovens once again, I can show you a left-winger who would love to see Israel wiped off the map. Unfortunately, we are equal opportunity victims, and we need to put aside any political differences if we are to successfully combat antisemitism.

Let’s hope that in the future, none of us have to wake up to the news that Stamford residents heard last Sunday.

Michael Feldstein is a contributing editor for The Jewish Link. He owns his own marketing consulting firm, MGF Marketing, and can be reached at [email protected].

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