Florida police are investigating the origins of antisemitic fliers left overnight at hundreds of homes in the Miami Beach area, local officials said Sunday, denouncing the latest incident to rattle Jewish communities in the United States.
Police in Miami Beach and nearby Surfside, Fla., said they increased patrols in neighborhoods and at religious institutions in response. The fliers appeared in the wake of high-profile attacks on Jewish people, including a gunman’s hostage-taking last weekend at a Texas synagogue and a woman’s arrest in New York after she allegedly spat on an 8-year-old child and made hateful statements.
“I call on our entire community to firmly and forcefully condemn this disturbing flyer, and all forms of hateful rhetoric, threats, violence and bigotry that have become increasingly common in our divided society,” tweeted Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, a Democrat, adding that as the county’s first Jewish mayor, such acts “cut especially close to my heart.”
The papers mixed vitriol against Judaism with comments about coronavirus measures, according to authorities, and listed a number of government and pharmaceutical company leaders whom it identified as Jewish. Similar fliers have been found California and Texas, officials said. Miami Beach Democratic Mayor Dan Gelber said on Twitter that the fliers were left outside people’s homes in plastic bags with pebbles.
Police have not released information about people or crimes linked to the fliers. Miami Beach police spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez said Sunday evening that authorities are sharing limited information to “protect the investigation,” which remains “open and active.”
A first report about the fliers was received just after 7 a.m., Rodriguez wrote in an email.
“There is no place for hate in our community and it will not be tolerated,” the police department said in a statement.
Fliers were also found on several streets in Surfside, according to Sgt. Jay Matelis, a spokesperson for that city’s police department. A Surfside community alert on Sunday said that “anti-Semitic flyers related to the COVID pandemic” were distributed in the area and that police are “taking this matter very seriously,” working with local and federal partners to determine where the papers came from.
Authorities in a Maryland suburb of D.C. were investigating similar fliers last month, The Washington Post reported.
Sunday’s incident drew a quick outcry from leaders. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., thanked police for a swift response, while Miami-Dade County Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins called the fliers “abhorrent and sad.”
Authorities are still investigating the Jan. 15 hostage attack in Colleyville, Texas, which FBI special agent Matthew DeSarno on Friday called “a hate crime and an act of terrorism . . . rooted in antisemitism.” Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen, entered Congregation Beth Israel with a gun and held its rabbi and three others against their will, triggering an hours-long rescue effort.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told reporters that he escaped with the final hostages after throwing a chair at the gunman, whom authorities said was fatally shot by the FBI shortly afterward.
Officials say Akram sought the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman imprisoned in Fort Worth for trying to kill American soldiers. Congregants said his targeting of Congregation Beth Israel to reach that goal was rooted in antisemitic tropes.
Akram “even said at one point that ‘I’m coming to you because I know President Biden will do things for the Jews, I know President Trump will do things for the Jews,’ ” Jeffrey Cohen, one of the hostages, told CNN.
Akram “came here, he came to us, he terrorized us, because he believed . . . these antisemitic tropes that the Jews control everything, and if I go to the Jews, they can pull the strings,” Cohen said.
Stacey Silverman, a congregant who had tuned into the derailed Shabbat services, pointed to other acts of violence against members of her faith, such as the 2018 shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people.
“We had a lot of security trainings the past few years because . . . it’s kind of a scary time to be a Jew in this country,” Silverman said.
In New York City, 21-year-old Christina Darling was arrested this month after allegedly spitting on a Jewish boy outside a synagogue and telling him and his siblings that “Hitler should have killed you all” and that “I’ll kill you and know where you live.”
Darling was arrested on charges including aggravated harassment as a hate crime, acting in a manner injurious to a child and menacing as a hate crime, according to police.
(c) 2022, The Washington Post · Hannah Knowles