Flyers with antisemitic messages were spread in Lawrence this week, prompting a call for support of Jewish community members amid the acts of hate.
Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Lawrence on Thursday released a statement via email informing Lawrence residents and University of Kansas students, community members, parents and alumni of the antisemitic flyers.
Chabad Center condemned the messages — which blamed Jewish people for the COVID-19 pandemic — and extended support to those harmed.
“Flyers were strewn around Lawrence with hateful fabrications, blaming the Jews for all sorts of lies and conspiracies. This shallow and foolish nonsense is a product of the dark ages when such accusations and blood libels were used to blame the Jewish community for all sorts of grievances. We regret that such backward ideas have not been left on the ash-heap of history,” the statement read.
Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, co-director of Chabad Center, said the flyers were found on Wednesday. He explained that KU’s campus did not seem to be targeted, and that they were overwhelmingly found in residential areas in West Lawrence.
The flyers are similar to ones spread this summer in other cities around the country, like Wichita, Kansas, Long Island, New York and Brigantine, New Jersey, that include antisemitic hate on a piece of paper placed inside of a plastic bag with pebbles or beads inside.
According to Tiechtel, some Lawrence residents discovered the flyers on their properties, mostly on their front lawns, and people began to post about it on social media. That’s also when he started getting phone calls from residents sharing their concerns.
Chabad Center’s statement attributed the source of the flyers to a “hate-filled propaganda group.” Tiechtel said he is not sure exactly who spread the flyers, but that he is confident this is not a Lawrence-based group since the flyer mirrors the ones spread around other cities.
“People are shooken up because this is not Lawrence. Lawrence is a place with such diversity and embraces so many different cultures and religions,” he said.
“We don’t believe this is a local entity. Somebody not only did this, but someone took the time to package each one as they put in each pebble or each bead. They were being fueled by hate. Just imagine how much positivity we can bring to this city if we spent that same amount of time spreading love.”
Local law enforcement has been notified, and the Lawrence Police Department has looked into it. Laura McCabe, a spokesperson for LPD, said via email Friday afternoon that the flyers are an act of free speech and no crime can be pursued at this time.
“While these types of messages can be disturbing, free speech is protected unless it rises to the level of a criminal threat or breaks a city ordinance,” McCabe said. “Investigators believe the notes were distributed by a national group traveling through towns and Lawrence is not at increased risk. It is important to call police dispatch if you believe illegal activity is taking place.”
While navigating these times, Tiechtel encourages people to stay vigilant but not to worry.
“Number one: There’s no room for fear or panic. This is not a local effort. This is not something a stemming from our community. Second point I want to bring out is that we have a mandate and a responsibility, every single citizen in this city, to do our part to make this world a better place,” he said.
“The fact that this can still happen today in 2022 needs to be a call for all of us to take action and increase goodness and kindness because we all share a role in making this world a better place. We don’t respond to hate with more hate, we respond with more love.”
Community members in Lawrence and northeast Kansas seeking support can always reach out to Chabad Center, 1203 W. 19th St. in Lawrence. Visit its website or call 785-832-8672 for more information. People can also text “Help Me” to Chabad Center’s 24-hour text line at 785-264-4477.
Tiechtel can be reached by phone at 785-917-0200 or by email at Rabbi@JewishKU.com.
“To our beautiful Jewish community, we encourage you and say, when we are faced with opposition and anti-Jewish sentiment, we cannot back down. When there are forces of darkness and hate, education, light and love make them melt away. Let us add in education, light and love today and every day,” Chabad Center’s statement read.