Should San Antonio residents find antisemitic literature or behavior, such as what happened in late June, it is best to not share images or words but rather alert Jewish advocacy organizations and local law enforcement, according to speakers at a June 29 symposium.

Barshop Jewish Community Center of San Antonio was the setting for “A Symposium on Antisemitism” presented by the Jewish Community Relations Council and Jewish Federation of San Antonio.

Speakers, including Mark Toubin, Southwest regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said there has been a significant rise in antisemitic incidents nationwide, ranging from harassment and vandalism to physical attacks, since 2016.

According to an ADL audit released in April, antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high in the United States in 2021 with 2,717 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism reported to the ADL.

The Jewish Federation of San Antonio and local law enforcement received reports of material targeting Jews and transgendered individuals distributed in some north central San Antonio neighborhoods just prior to the Independence Day holiday weekend.

North Side residents also found antisemitic flyers on their lawns in separate incidents earlier this year and last fall.

Additionally, a neo-Nazi group held an anti-Jewish protest last October outside the local Jewish community center, which is also home to the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio.

District 9 City Council Member John Courage issued a statement, calling San Antonio a compassionate multicultural community that welcomes all faiths and individuals.

Courage also denounce the latest act of hate speech, saying there is no tolerance for people who distribute materials with intent to sow hatred and incite violence in the community.

“These agitators are hiding behind the first amendment to bring fear to our Jewish community and transgendered individuals. Bigotry and hate-filled messages should gain no traction here,” Courage said.

Toubin called antisemitism the world’s oldest form of hate speech, but said increased internet access and digital platforms focused on disinformation and hate speech have emboldened variations of racism worldwide.

“What’s happening online is one of the biggest reasons why we’re seeing an increase in antisemitism,” said Toubin, a San Antonio native.

Toubin said to combat antisemitism, people must first understand its origins and the types of anti-Jewish misinformation, stereotypes, tropes and myths that prejudiced individuals and groups have spread and developed over decades and centuries.

In a recent address to the ADL, Israeli President Isaac Herzog described antisemitism not as a single act but rather “an ecosystem” that is expanded via disinformation, demonization, fake news and distortion, according to Toubin.

Toubin said Herzog agreed responses to antisemitism must address and counter all of those individual elements that make anti-Jewish hate alive and well around the world.

Toubin applauded the Barshop Jewish Community Center’s programs that use outreach, education and advocacy to dispel myths and counter misinformation.

“Nothing is more important than education,” Toubin said.

ADL Associate Director Dena Marks also spoke at the symposium. She said some people may not think much of antisemitic flyers left on their property, as was the case in reported incidents around the North San Antonio area earlier this year and last October.

But Marks said such propaganda could compel like-minded individuals to make threats a reality and take action against other people or private property. Such was the case of anti-Jewish vandalism committed in a primarily Jewish neighborhood in North San Antonio in August 2015.

“There’s always that possibility because not only are these groups virulently antisemitic, but they also incite violence. Their flyers make people hate us and incite violence against us,” Marks said.

Marks offered symposium attendees do’s and don’t's if they find antiemetic flyers in their neighborhood. Marks said while it is important to not throw away the flyer, she urged residents not to call the news media or share the flyer’s message or author on social media.

Marks said that only perpetuates the hateful message contained in the flyer and indirectly raises the profile of the extremist individual or group behind the flyer.

In turn, Marks said, the party responsible for the flyer uses that publicity to raise money for their own continued antisemitic promotional efforts.

Marks said if someone finds an individual distributing an antisemitic flyer, they should not directly engage them but instead take a photo of them and/or their car license plate and share that information with police.

Regardless, Marks said it is vital for the resident to hold onto the flyer as police evidence and try to give whatever information possible to law enforcement about the suspected distributors of the antisemitic flyers.

Marks handed out contact information for informing law enforcement and the ADL about any discovery of antisemitic flyers or other forms of anti-Jewish hate:

  • San Antonio Police Department nonemergency: 210-207-7273

  • Bexar County Sheriff’s Office nonemergency: 210-335-4264

  • Hollywood Park Police Department nonemergency: 210-335-6000

  • Hill Country Village Police Department nonemergency: 210-494-3671

  • Shavano Park Police Department nonemergency: 210-804-0110

Southwest Texas Fusion Center, a collaborative federal and state law enforcement effort with officers in San Antonio and other cities in the region, helps to prevent, detect and investigate criminal and terrorist activity.

Official San Antonio police officers attached to the fusion center said their intelligence-collecting collaborative can share tips, evidence and resources with other law enforcement agencies.

Sgt. Ben Flores said the fusion center sent copies of the antisemitic flyers found in North Side flyers last fall to the FBI but has not yet received a response.

Flores explained instead of immediate action, in these cases, law enforcement agencies conduct methodical investigations to track down the source of misinformation and determine whether a larger criminal or terroristic threat might be in the works.

Flores also said the fusion center and law enforcement agencies see things such as antisemitic flyers as not officially a form of prosecutable hate crime but rather hate speech.

However, Flores suggested residents always be vigilant in their community and provide tips if needed to the fusion center and local police.

“Nothing is too frivolous for us,” Flores said.

Courage said his council staff is working with law enforcement and constituents to identify and expose the individuals who recently distributed anti-trans and antisemitic materials.

“The FBI San Antonio Division is launching a multi-faceted advertising campaign to build public awareness of hate crimes, with goals to help the public better understand what constitutes a federal hate crime and to encourage reporting of those crimes to law enforcement,” Courage also said.

Anyone with tips about this latest incident involving antiemetic and anti-trans messages may provide information to local law enforcement or call 1-800-CALL-FBI or visit FBI’s tips portal, Courage said.