PEABODY — On Saturday morning, residents of seven streets in West Peabody woke up to discover brazenly antisemitic pamphlets on their lawns and sidewalks.
The pamphlets were placed in plastic bags, which were weighted down with pebbles, and found on Lisburn Street, North Dale Street, Antrim Road, Benevento Circle, Donna Street, Dublin Road and Belfast Road.
According to Peabody Police Captain Dennis Bonaiuto, three different types of pamphlets were distributed. One of the fliers accused Jews of having a Covid agenda, stating “Every single aspect of the Covid agenda is Jewish.” Bonaiuto said police are investigating but declined to say if placing these pamphlets on lawns is a hate crime. “At a minimum it would really depend on where this investigation leads to see if a specific person was targeted,” he said.
“Our community simply will not tolerate these acts of hate and we are united in our efforts to end the scourge of antisemitism once and for all,” said Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt.
“These hateful fliers appear to be the propaganda efforts of the Goyim Defense League, or GDL, a loose network of individuals connected by their virulent antisemitism,” ADL New England Regional Director Robert Trestan said in a statement. “Their overarching goal is to cast aspersions on Jews and spread antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories, including antisemitic conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus. There is no place for antisemitism and hate in Massachusetts. Everyone must take a stand and speak up against hate wherever it appears.”
Similar pamphlets were discovered last Saturday in Tampa, Florida, and have also recently been found in California, Virginia and Wisconsin.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Goyim Defense League was responsible for at least 74 antisemitic propaganda incidents in 2021.
In recent years, Peabody has been the site of several antisemitic incidents. In 2020, the caretaker for a cemetery belonging to Temple Tiferet Shalom along Route 128 discovered two granite memorial benches that appeared to have been smashed with a sledgehammer in the days leading up to the High Holidays.
In 2018 and 2019, Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman was targeted twice. His synagogue was shot at in 2018 and its windows shattered. And in 2019, a motorist yelled antisemitic remarks and threw pennies at him and another rabbi on Lowell Street.
Those incidents led to the city holding a rally against antisemitism attended by over 300 residents.
In a joint statement, Schusterman and his wife, Raizel, said there is no such thing as a “minor incident” of antisemitism. “Each incident is a major one that needs to be spoken out against with every fiber of our being. In my nearly 20 years living here, this is not our first exposure to this hate and it is only by speaking out, loud and proud that it will stay in the shadows and be eradicated for once and for all.”
Rabbi Richard Perlman, of Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody, learned about the incidents on Sunday morning – during the holiday of Shavuot. He praised the Peabody Police for taking swift action to investigate the pamphlets, and said the polarity in American society has been caused, at least partially, by elected public officials.
“I think a lot of it stems from our politicians, who are not sending a positive message. They’re fanning the flames,” said Perlman. “I think we need to start looking at ourselves in the mirror and stop looking at the party that we’re a member of. We need to start looking at the country that we’re a member of and start acting as Americans.
Steven A. Rosenberg can be reached at email@example.com