Antisemitic flyers were distributed to some homes off McGregor Boulevard on Thursday night.
Rabbi Yitzchok Minkowicz, the leader of the Chabad Lubavitch of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers, said he heard from multiple worried community members this morning.
“I got so many phone calls about it,” Minkowicz told the News-Press.
Minkowicz said he had never heard of similar incidents in Fort Myers during the Chabad’s three decades of operation. The city’s non-Jewish residents have always been welcoming, and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office proactively patrols near the synagogue to Bolster security, the rabbi said.
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“We never experienced any anger or hostility,” he said. “There are no walls or barriers. It’s a very loving community, a very caring community.
The flyers bores several slogans: “Anti-semitism is a human right,” “Let’s Go Brandon” and “#Whites4Whoopi.”
The latter is an apparent reference to a comment last month by “The View” host Whoopi Goldberg, who said on-air that the Holocaust was not about race. Goldberg apologized and was suspended from the show for two weeks.
The flyer also bore the logo of “America First,” a podcast produced by white supremacist and antisemitic activist Nick Fuentes. Several of his supporters, who call themselves Groypers, were spotted carrying an America First flag during the storming of the Capitol on Jan, 6, 2021.
But that attribution was likely fabricated, said Carla Hill, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. Rather, the flyer appears to be the work of the Goyim Defense League, another antisemitic group that has been falsely attributing its propaganda to American First as part of a feud with Fuentes and his supporters.
“We believe that’s a trolling effort by the Goyim Defense League against America First,” Hill said in an interview. “They don’t care for Nick Fuentes and they think he’s too sympathetic to the Jews.”
The same flyer previously appeared in Sarasota, except with a link to the GDL’s video platform, Hill said. And a link to NBC 2’s story on the flyers was posted to the GDL’s channel on Telegram, an encrypted messaging service often used by extremist groups.
“At this point every bit of information has to be double-checked,” Hill said. “It’s just a constant trolling effort. We have to be sure to not misreport, so to speak.”
In December, the GDL hung antisemitic banners from a highway overpass in Brevard County, according to the ADL. Hill said the GDL’s activities are loosely organized online and it is unclear how many supporters the group has in Florida. There appear to be at least 10 people in the state who are “quite active” in spreading GDL’s racist propaganda, Hill said.
Minkowicz told the News-Press he has always felt safe in Fort Myers — and still does.
“I’m here for 30 years, and I never experienced anything like this,” he said. “Thank god we get along with the community beautifully.”
Earlier this month two teens were arrested on felony hate crime charges after they vandalized a Bonita Springs home owned by Rabbi Mendy Greenberg, who leads Shabbat services at Chabad of Bonita Springs, Estero & FGCU.
Two boys, one 17 and one 14, destroyed Greenberg’s mailbox, broke his car window, and defaced his driveway by spray-painting the sidewalk with big red lettering, spelling out the word “Jew’s.”
The News-Press does not name those younger than 18 who are crime suspects.
Greenberg, who was present at a press conference announcing the arrests, said he believes Lee County is a place of love and friendship and, while he has lived here for the past 17 years, he has never experienced any similar antisemitic crime.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Jewish community concerned after leaflets appear in McGregor neighborhood