Community responds to antisemitic flyers in Boise's North End

Posted at 3:44 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 16:37:30-05

BOISE, Idaho — Community members and religious leaders are responding after antisemitic flyers were found in the North End of Boise Saturday night and Sunday morning.

The Chabad Jewish Center said they first were alerted to the incident by the Boise Police Department, which generally informs them of antisemitic incidents for safety purposes. They said since then, they've received an outpouring of support from the community.

"People are asking us how they can help, how they can identify with us and show us their support," Rabbi Medel Lifshitz, the director of the Chabad Jewish Center said.

Mixed with this support, though is a concern, especially from Boise's Jewish community.

"My first reaction was, 'Not again.' this is the fourth incident in 13 months that Boise has experienced," said Dan Berger, a resident in the North End.

Three of these incidents took place in the last three months.

“When we couple these with the appearance of swastikas not only in the Anne Frank Memorial but on businesses in downtown Boise, on signage in McCall and now we couple with flyers of such hate," Dan Prinzing, the Executive Director of the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights said. "This is antisemitism as hate speech, symbols as hate speech and we have to all be disturbed by this.”

A report from the American Jewish Committee (AJC) said one in four Jewish Americans said they’ve been a victim of antisemitism in the past year. Additionally, 82% of Jewish Americans believe antisemitism in America has increased in the last five years.

"Every troubling incident, there's really an opportunity," Lifshitz said. "Wouldn't it be remarkable if this type of activity was the catalyst for neighbors being more friendly to each other?"

AJC said there is something positive that can come from such a negative event.

"The most upsetting part other than the facts themselves is just that--how upset it makes both the Jewish community and the general community when it happens. I think these incidents, though. They have the ability to bring people together," Regina Sassoon Friedland, a regional director for AJC said.

Some in the community are also calling for action.

"My concern is that this is a pattern that's hard to trace because it's coming from multiple places," Berger said. "What we need now more than ever is just people to not just speak up against antisemitism and for human rights, but also for educating each other what Judaism means and how it's important to have a diverse fabric in our city and state," Berger said.

AJC said it's important to call out hate when it occurs and to remember that it doesn't always come from white supremacy or white nationalist groups.

"What we can do, as with all forms I think of hate and discrimination, is we can expose them and we can work to minimize them and I think through educating people and just being blunt about what is happening, I think that that is probably the best way to effect change," Friedland said.

Lifshitz said people can go to the Chabad Jewish Center's website if they'd like to learn more about Judaism.

"We don't proselytize, we're not interested in others to join our traditions, but it would be nice if people at least understood the basics so that they could be more accommodating to their Jewish neighbors and co-workers, things like that," he said.

Lifshitz also said these few incidents aren't reflective of Boise or the state of Idaho.

"We're not going to allow a few bad actors to reflect poorly on the entire community," Lifshitz said.

AJC provides more information about antisemitism here.