Anti-Semitism in the U.S. conquered the headlines on Monday, after 15 Jewish Community Centers across the country received bomb threats and were evacuated. The threats turned out to be false alarms, but they still managed to create at least a temporary sense of fear for some people. A Washington, DC resident whose children were evacuated from the local JCC told Haaretz: "I am sure there was never an actual security threat, but extremely unpleasant nonetheless. I didn’t relish having to explain to my 4 year old about his first encounter with anti-Semitism."
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In the D.C. Metro area, another case of anti-Semitic threats became national news during the weekend, when a Jewish family in the Maryland suburb of Rockville received a threatening letter adorned by a yellow star. The local police is investigating the case as a hate crime.
The incident occurred after Sonya and Mikey Franklin hung a banner outside of their apartment last week in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. They took down the banner within days, after the association at their apartment building asked them not to display political messages. Still, two days after their sign was taken down, a hand-written note containing anti-Semitic symbols and threats was left in their car, which was vandalized during the night.
The note, written all in capital letters, read: "Hello, it has come to our attention that you support the racist terror group that is blataly [sic] anti white and anti police, of course we are talking about BLM. You have kept your racist anti white cop hating banner even after Dallas (meaning the sniper attack in the Texan city that resulted in the death of five police officers in July 2016) and the torture of the disabled Goy, Austin Hillbourn by 4 black BLM members. This is in the name of Austin and the dead police officers. Your lack of care and racism is very annoying and disgraceful. And for this we would like to award you a gold star. Enjoy the mayhem."
Beneath the text were two drawn symbols – a Star of David painted in yellow with the word "Jude" written next to it in bold letters, and a crosshairs sign. Mikey Franklin, who told Haaretz on Monday that he and his wife hung the Black Lives Matter banner outside their window " to encourage discussion" with their neighbors, added in a phone interview that the local police were in touch with them and has yet to discover who was behind the anti-Semitic note.
Franklin told Haaretz that "this is far from the first time I've experienced anti-Semitism. It happens from time to time. I've had my Kippah taken off my head once. Another time someone called me a Kike on the Metro. And last year, my synagogue was vandalized by people who drew swastikas on it." This event, however, was different, says Franklin: "This wasn't a stranger on the street who saw my Kippah and decided to harass me. It's someone who knew who we are and what our car looks like. It's probably someone who lives near us."
The Franklins informed the police about the incident on Sunday, and while the police arrived and examined the letter, the couple was disappointed when the initial police reaction was to say that "there's nothing in there that is anti-Semitic" and that it's unknown what the word "Jude" means. A local police spokesman added that the letter was most likely written by kids. On Monday, however, the police announced it was treating the event as a hate crime, and that it was committed to providing "the highest levels of police services" to all residents.
Mikey Franklin posted a photograph of the letter on Twitter, and it was retweeted and shared by thousands of users. He says that following the initial tweet, he has received hundreds of supportive messages from friends, neighbors and even complete strangers on the internet – but at the same time, has also become exposed to vast anti-Semitic harassment on social networks. "My Twitter mentions are full of Nazis now," he explains. One popular Neo-Nazi publication published a picture of the Franklins' months-old baby.
"We're not going to change anything because of this," Franklin told Haaretz. "I'm going to keep wearing my Kippah and we're not going to stop being supportive of social justice. The aim of this was to scare us. These people feel there are now no consequences for what they do. They feel they can behave however they want."
Over the weekend, anti-Semitism made headlines also in the state of Montana, where far-right activists plan to hold a protest march next Monday in the town of Whitefish. The march will take place on Martin Luther King Day, and is a reaction to attempts by the local Jewish community to limit the operation of a Neo-Nazi website from the town's area. Over the weekend, a counter-event was held in Whitefish, under the title "Love Not Hate," bringing together residents who oppose the upcoming far-right demonstration. A local police chief told Montana Public Radio last week that if the Neo-Nazis and their sympathizers "are going to protest in our city, I want them to understand they're going to do it our way, or we're going to kick their ass."