When Michael Lainoff found antisemitic flyers outside of his Eugene home the morning of Sunday, Feb.19, it was “alarming, but not totally unexpected.”
His neighbors confirmed that houses all along Olive Street had flyers outside their residence. It was later confirmed that the incident wasn’t limited to his neighborhood. Each bag containing the flyer had “wood stove pellets” in it, which Lainoff was later informed represented Zyklon B pellets used during World War II to murder people in the Holocaust.
This follows flyers distributed in the Thurston neighborhood in January that Oregon’s Department of Justice found to have been distributed by an extremist hate group.
Antisemitism has been on the rise in recent years, with the number of antisemitic incidents reaching an all-time high in 2021 and a spike in antisemitic beliefs in 2022, according to surveys and reports by the Anti-Defamation League.
These flyers are among many distributed in cities throughout the United States, Rabbi Meir Goldstein, a senior Jewish educator at Oregon Hillel and a Judaic Studies lecturer at the University of Oregon, says. It’s a “concerted effort” to try and “instill terror and lack of security into people,” he says.
In response, the City Club of Eugene is hosting “Antisemitism and How to Fight It,” a live and virtual forum on March 10 at the Inn at 5th.
Goldstein will be speaking alongside Rabbi Yitzhak Husbands-Hankins, rabbi emeritus at the Temple Beth Israel, and Supervisory Special Agent Ryan Dwyer of the FBI, who oversees federal hate crime and color of law investigations throughout Oregon.
“Antisemitism is a conspiracy theory that places Jews as being responsible for whatever is most hated or most feared by a group,” Goldstein says. Recent displays of antisemitism show the need for the conversation is even more poignant, he says.
Antisemitism is nearly 2,000 years old, and is predicated on the idea that Jewish people are “subhuman,” Goldstein says. adding that it’s hard to nail down because it morphs and changes to whatever is most hateful and most disgusting to the group of bigots using that conspiracy.
“It’s not unique here, but it’s a uniquely troubling time,” Goldstein says. “This is why it’s so important to me to participate in a program like the discussion at the City Club.”
He says there are a few different outcomes from conversations such as these. The first is to name the hatred and bigotry against the Jewish population, and Judaism as a religion, in order to see what is going on in the world and respond to it.
“Only when we clearly see the challenges that are in front of us can we come up with good responses and solutions,” Goldstein says.
The second reason is that many Jewish community members are feeling the weight of antisemitism, especially at a time where it’s becoming more prominent. Having this kind of conversation in the public sphere helps people feel both understood and that their feelings are real, he says.
Jewish people make up a very small population in both the U.S. and Oregon, Goldstein says. “We depend on our allies and working together with partners to help end antisemitism and bigotry in any form.”
While the flyers were intended to intimidate people, Goldstein says his conversations with people in the aftermath have suggested otherwise. People are upset that it’s happening at all, he says, but the reaction has been to get together.
In a recent instance, Goldstein says that a white supremacist group declared Saturday, Feb. 25, a national “Day of Hate.” The response, however, was one of defiance against the intimidation. Goldstein says more Jewish people showed up to synagogue that day than have in a long time.
“If the intention was to intimidate local Jews and cause us to stay home and be fearful, then it certainly failed miserably,” Goldstein says.
Externally, many friends and allies from other religious and ethnic minority organizations reached out in support , he said. At Temple Beth Israel, t people formed a perimeter outside the synagogue to provide a barrier in case something happened.
“There’s no room for hate in this community or any community,” Lainoff says. “I just hope that we can overcome some of this. Mostly, it’s just ignorant people, and overcoming ignorance is a big challenge.”
“Antisemitism and How to Fight It” takes place on 12 pm to 1:15 pm March 10 from in the Maple Room at Inn at 5th, 205 E. 6th Avenue. The event is free with an optional sandwich bar from Tap & Growler. Questions can be emailed to Info@CityClubofEugene.org.