Austin Jewish Community Stung by Two Antisemitic Outrages on Same Day
A white supremacist group with a record of pushing “vitriolic antisemitic propaganda” carried out another outrage in Austin, Texas on Saturday, as a high school in the same city was vandalized with antisemitic slogans in a separate incident, leaving local Jews in shock.
Supporters of the so-called “Goyim Defense League” hung a banner at an overpass in the city that declared “Vax the Jews” along with a link advertising the group’s website. The location of the overpass near Far West Boulevard is home to a large concentration of Austin’s Jewish population, with the Shalom Austin Jewish Community Center and no fewer than four congregations nearby.
The same group has been responsible for similar actions over the last year, including a banner that was hung at an overpass in Los Angeles in August that stated, “The Jews Want a Race War.”
The group was also behind the harassment of pro-Israel activists who attended a rally in Boca Raton, Fl. at the height of the war between Israel and Hamas in May this year. A white van emblazoned with racist messages including “Hitler Was Right” and “Vax the Jews,” while flying a Palestinian flag, repeatedly drove around the rally.
Austin’s mayor condemned the banner as a violation of the city’s values.
“I am heartbroken to see antisemitic hatred in Austin, a welcoming and respectful place,” Mayor Steve Adler wrote on Twitter. “Hatred of any kind has no place in our city.”
On Saturday, Rabbi Daniel Septimus — the CEO of Shalom Austin — sent a letter to community members stating: “We understand this is extremely upsetting and unsettling. We are always vigilant in monitoring antisemitic groups and work closely with law enforcement to share information about their activities.”
There was controversy over the police response to the banner, when one officer who arrived at the scene to organize its removal was seen fist bumping with one of the far right activists. The Austin Police Department later explained that the officer had been carrying out his mission to remove the banner peacefully. “Hate and bigotry have absolutely no place in our community and certainly are not welcome in our police department,” Austin police chief Joseph Chacon said in a statement on Sunday.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the “Goyim Defense League” espouses “vitriolic antisemitism via the internet, through propaganda distributions and in street actions.” The ADL has described the group in a briefing as a “small network of virulently antisemitic provocateurs led by Jon Minadeo II of Petaluma, California.” Its main centers of activity are in California, Colorado, Florida and New York. The term ‘goyim’ is a derogatory word in Yiddish and Hebrew for “non-Jews.”
The antisemitic banner was sighted on Saturday as police were called to a separate incident of antisemitic vandalism in Austin.
Racist and antisemitic slogans and symbols were daubed across several parking spots at Anderson High School. One senior at the school, Aiden Horwitz, told local CBS News that “it was just really scary to see that going into school.”
Horwitz added: “It’s just surprising that this is still happening in 2021 and that this hate is still so prevalent in the world.”