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Nov. 26, 2022

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Vancouver residents receive flyers blaming Jews for pandemic

By , Columbian staff writer
2 Photos
Some Vancouver residents woke up to antisemitic flyers on their doorsteps blaming the COVID-19 pandemic on Jewish people, as seen in central Vancouver on Thursday morning.
Some Vancouver residents woke up to antisemitic flyers on their doorsteps blaming the COVID-19 pandemic on Jewish people, as seen in central Vancouver on Thursday morning. The Anti-Defamation League says the group behind the flyers also distributed them across the country in December. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When Ian Moore went outside to toss out some garbage before pickup Wednesday morning, he saw a flyer in a plastic bag on his doorstep. He thought it was a business advertisement; instead, he said he was disgusted to find it had antisemitic messaging blaming Jewish people for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moore and his wife moved to central Vancouver a few months ago. They enjoy their proximity to views of the Columbia River and planes taking off from Portland International Airport, he said. He perceived the neighborhood as tolerant and a nice place to live.

When he brought the flyer inside to show his wife, he said they both felt “physically ill.” He and his wife are not Jewish, but he said he can only imagine how Jewish families would feel if the flyer was left on their front steps overnight.

Moore reported the flyer to the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks hate crimes and extremist groups, and the Vancouver Police Department. He feels it’s important to make people aware that some are spreading this kind of thinking, he said, and to push back on it.

He said he’s heard from Jewish friends about similar flyers being dropped off in other cities.

In December, the flyers were reported in neighborhoods across the country, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The organization received reports of the flyers in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas and Vermont.

The Anti-Defamation League also received reports Wednesday morning of similar flyers in Eugene, Ore.

The flyer Moore found includes a web address for a video streaming platform modeled after YouTube but full of conspiracy videos about COVID-19 and Jewish people.

The group behind the flyers and the streaming platform is identified by the Anti-Defamation League as an antisemitic extremist group. The Anti-Defamation League said the group’s goal in distributing the flyers is to make its presence known, to recruit like-minded members and to monetize on hate for Jewish people.

Miri Cypers, regional director of the Pacific Northwest branch of the Anti-Defamation League, said the flyers send a harmful and devastating message that makes people feel unsafe. Even though there’s no direct call to action or encouragement for violence, she said her organization takes these flyers seriously.

“It’s easy to dismiss this as extreme ideas, but I think we know from recent years how bias can escalate to violence,” she said.

Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp confirmed the agency received reports of the flyers throughout neighborhoods along the Columbia River in central Vancouver and downtown. She said police are following up but have not identified a suspect.

Jackie Brock also found the flyer in her driveway when she was putting out the trash for pickup Wednesday morning. She noticed flyers at her neighbors’ houses, too.

“I am deeply troubled by these kinds of messages, knowing they have the power to incite violence,” Brock said in an email. “Everyone in our community deserves to feel safe and to be treated with humanity and respect.”

Moore said the fact that the flyer was on his doorstep felt personal. His wife is an Eastern European immigrant and experienced intolerance growing up. The flyer particularly upset her, he said.

Cypers said the past few years have shown that, “words and language really matter” and that she’s concerned about people with hateful views acting on them. She noted the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue standoff last month, in which a man who claimed to have explosives held a rabbi and several others hostage for hours.

Cypers encouraged anyone who sees discriminatory messages in the community to report them to the Anti-Defamation League and law enforcement, and to speak out about hateful ideology.

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