Red & Black (April 25, 2023)
On repeated instances in February and March, Athens residents in the Cobbham, Normaltown, Chicopee-Dudley, Newtown and Boulevard areas awoke to find antisemitic flyers in their driveways, sending ripples of shock and horror throughout the community.
The Red&Black will not report the strongly antisemitic messages that appeared on the flyers due to their hateful nature. The police did not file an incident report as of April 14 because the flyers did not technically violate a law or ordinance, but they are aware of the issue, according to Athens-Clarke County Police Lt. Shaun Barnett.
These flyers mark yet another development in the alarming increase in antisemitism at the state and national levels. According to the Anti-Defamation League, reports of antisemitic incidents increased nationally 148% from May 2020 to May 2021, reaching an all-time high since the ADL began recording antisemitic incidents in 1979.
On February 5, similar flyers were dropped at homes in Sandy Springs, including the home of the only Jewish representative in the Georgia Assembly, Esther Panitch. Sen. Jon Ossoff publicly condemned the Athens flyers in a statement.
“I condemn in the strongest terms recent despicable attempts to sow fear and division with hateful flyers delivered to families across Athens. Georgians are united in our rejection of bigotry,” Ossoff said in the statement.
Some of the flier appearances also coincided with the so-called “National Day of Hate” on Feb. 24, a day where white supremacists across the country attempt to spread propaganda and participate in protests.
While antisemitic incidents increase nationally, the flyers came as a surprise to Jewish members of the Athens community. Jeremy Lichtig, campus director of Hillel UGA, a Jewish campus organization that provides religious and education services to students, expressed concern over the flyers.
“It’s not something I think anyone wants in their community. And the fact that it’s coming here to Athens is troubling,” Lichtig said.
Sophomore economics and management major Chase Flagel is involved in Hillel and Jewish student life, and shared similar concerns.
“I think the biggest concern is when those [antisemitic] words become actions and tangible problems rather than just words. So I think the flyers to me like in the Athens community aren't necessarily the problem, but it could be the gateway to a problem,” Flagel said.
However, both Lichtig and Flagel pointed out the strong showing of support for the Jewish community from Athens locals and UGA. Lichtig highlighted the UGA administration’s push for unity, such as UGA President Jere W. Morehead attending Passover dinner at Hillel and Student Affairs partnering with Hillel for one of their Shabbat dinners.
Residents in the affected areas are also on the lookout for any evidence and the Interfaith Clergy Partnership of Greater Athens issued a statement against the flyers and their message.
“This community is very much saying this is all of our problems, and we can't let any group feel separated,” Lichtig said.
To combat antisemitism, both Lichtig and Flagel urge education through building relationships across divisions.
“The first step to really understanding how to be an ally towards antisemitism and standing up to it is just even knowing that it exists and that it's a problem,” Flagel said.
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