By Andrew Lapin
This is a developing story.
(JTA) – The police bulletins have circulated among Jews on social media, in WhatsApp chats and via email: A white supremacist group is calling for a “National Day of Hate” this Saturday and encouraging antisemites to vandalize and deface Jewish institutions.
Information about the antisemitic campaign was first provided by the Chicago Police Department, and a “situational awareness alert” with NYPD insignia circulating online advises local Jewish communities to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
Law enforcement and security agencies in the Chicago and New York City areas, however, say that as of Thursday afternoon, there are no known concrete threats to Jewish institutions. The NYPD did not comment on the authenticity of the bulletin with its seal but told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “While there are no identified threats to New York City, out of an abundance of caution, the Department will deploy additional resources to sensitive locations, including houses of worship, throughout the weekend.”
The Chicago Police Department said in a statement this week, “At this time, there is no actionable intelligence.” And a report from the Secure Community Network, a national group that coordinates security for Jewish institutions, said, “It should be noted, online chatter surrounding the campaign has remains limited and we assess, as in the past, this will not likely be a widespread event.”
The NYPD bulletin also shared one of the hate group’s messages, which called for “MASS ANTI-SEMITIC ACTION.” The message urged followers to “shock the masses with banner drops, stickers, fliers, and graffiti,” and to film their activities.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the campaign is being pushed by a small white supremacist group in Iowa called Crew-319, in conjunction with other extremist groups. The ADL confirmed that the hate message in the NYPD bulletin is authentic and comes from Crew-319’s channel on the social network Telegram, which is popular with extremists.
In its memo, the Chicago Police Department’s Place of Worship Safety Advisory Team, which monitors threats to synagogues and other houses of worship, urged Jewish community members to “keep situationally aware and pay attention to your surroundings while out in the neighborhood, not just on Shabbos, but during the week as well.”
An alert from the Community Security Initiative, a New York City-area Jewish security agency, advised residents that “no specific details have been shared by New York-based extremists to indicate their exact plans for this weekend. We assess that propaganda-based activities are likely, as we have seen across New York in recent months.” The alert recommended “heightened situational awareness” and cautioned residents not to confront people spreading propaganda.
Chicago’s Jewish federation sent a message to synagogue rabbis and leadership in the area saying that there is no discernible concrete threat to the local Jewish community at this time. Chicago Alderman Deborah Silverstein, whose ward includes the heavily Orthodox West Rogers Park neighborhood, echoed that assessment.
“There has been no threat to Chicago. Chicago is not at the moment targeted in any way. But the police are very active,” Silverstein told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Unfortunately, because we have been targeted before, we have a very active police department.”
The messages from police and community leaders came alongside an outpouring of anxiety from Jews sharing the news of the threatened antisemitic action on social media.
The alert came roughly a week after two Jews exiting morning prayer services were shot on consecutive days in Los Angeles, allegedly by a man with antisemitic motives. Last fall, two men were arrested in Penn Station for threatening violence against New York City synagogues, and weeks earlier, police in New Jersey warned synagogues in the state about a “credible threat.”
“So being an American Jew in 2023 is choosing between 1) taking my kids to pray, anxiously looking at the exits worried about their safety or 2) staying home and letting the anti-Semites define my Jewishness,” tweeted Daniella Greenbaum Davis, a writer and former producer on the TV talk show “The View.”
Crew-319, the group behind the antisemitic initiative, is a “tiny Iowa-based neo-Nazi crew that distributes propaganda and engages in antisemitic stunts,” Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, told JTA. Segal said that on Sept. 11, 2022, a member of the group drove a U-Haul truck hung with posters reading “Jews did 9/11” through Des Moines.
In recent months, hate groups have targeted Jews with fliers, graffiti and in-person protests. The Goyim Defense League, one of the country’s most visible hate groups, has distributed antisemitic fliers in Jewish communities across the country and unfurled hateful banners on highway overpasses; recently they also staged an antisemitic protest outside Chabad of South Orlando. Their propaganda reportedly inspired the suspect in the L.A. shootings.
Antisemitic messages have also been projected onto sports stadiums, graffitied on college campuses and displayed outside Disney World.
The antisemitic activity also comes amid a national rise in extremist violence. An ADL study published Thursday found that the proportion of mass shootings tied to extremism has risen significantly over the last decade.