In the early morning hours of Wednesday, Feb. 15, deputies of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office found several anti-Semitic fliers with the swastika symbol and the Web address of a known white supremacist news and commentary site on them, the Daily Stormer, in the Fountain Glen neighborhood of Bel Air.
The JT was sent a photo of the flier, which reads in all caps, “White man, are you sick and tired of the Jews destroying your country through mass immigration and degeneracy? Join us in the struggle for global white supremacy at the Daily Stormer,” followed by the site’s domain.
Rabbi Gila Ruskin, spiritual leader for Temple Adas Shalom in neighboring Havre de Grace, said she was horrified by the flier and also troubled by the growing instances of anti-Semitism.
“There have been a few isolated incidents, but I think because of the words [of the flier], this was more upsetting in some ways,” she added. “I think it has to be seen as part of a trend. People feel they have permission to put their hate on the outside.”
One of the other Jewish leaders in Harford County, Harford Chabad’s Rabbi Kushi Schusterman, used to live in the targeted neighborhood and said he was remarkably saddened by the whole event. He said he has never experienced an anti-Semitic event like this in the community. Smaller incidents, like someone shouting an ill-advised comment out of a car, he chalked up more to ignorance than anti-Semitism.
“In general, the Harford County Jewish community is about educating people,” he said. “Saying to our neighbors, ‘We’re just like you and we’re not like you, and that’s OK.’”
Deputies canvassed the area where the fliers were distributed, but no witnesses or suspects were found, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office. Cristie Kahler, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, said they have not heard of any similar incidents in recent months. Without witnesses or further information, it is hard to follow up any further on the matter, she said, but also urged residents to be vigilant.
“It goes back to ‘see something, say something,’” she added. “The neighborhood watches are really our best bet in something like this.”
The Baltimore Jewish Council condemned the act of “hate and divisiveness” in a statement and urged law enforcement to “thoroughly investigate.”
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman also condemned the act.
“I absolutely reject any kind of hateful and discriminatory messages directed against our Jewish community, law enforcement or any citizens of Harford County,” he said in a prepared statement. “We cherish all of our residents and want them to know they are welcome here, and these disgraceful fliers have no place in our home.”
This incident comes after the several waves of called-in bomb threats to dozens of JCCs across the country in January and February, most recently on Feb. 20, Presidents Day. The JCC in Park Heights was evacuated after the calls on both Jan. 9 and 18.
Since the campaign and election of President Donald Trump, multiple outlets have been reporting a rise in hate speech and white supremacist activity, particularly from the so-called “alt-right,” a far-right faction centered on white nationalist ideas. Trump has disavowed his white supremacist supporters.
The Daily Stormer is named for the German Nazi Party tabloid Der Stürmer and was launched in 2013.
Ruskin was on her way to meet with the imam of the local mosque and clergy of the local African Methodist Episcopal church when the JT reached her. The strong alliances the congregations are forming have felt even more important these days, Ruskin said.
“It’s frightening [that the hate] has been there all along,” she went on to say. “But maybe now that it’s out there, we can deal with it. I don’t know. I don’t know the best way to deal with all these things, except dialogue.”