North Berkeley families were the latest targets of the Goyim Defense League (GDL), a hate group run out of Petaluma, California. On the morning of Sunday, February 20, hundreds of North Berkeley residents awoke to find plastic baggies carrying anti-Semitic flyers containing messages blaming Jewish people for COVID-19. According to Berkeleyside, GDL, led by white supremacist Jon Minadeo, randomly distributed these flyers the night before along the streets of Grizzly Peak and Marin Avenue.
The flyers, titled “Every Single Aspect of the COVID Agenda is Jewish,” contained conspiracy theories surrounding Jewish public health officials. According to the SF Chronicle, the flyers named more than a dozen government officials who they claimed influence or control COVID-19 policy. Links to videos on various political topics were also reportedly attached to the flyers.
GDL has been promoting anti-Semitic propaganda in similar ways since 2021. Last year, the group distributed similar flyers in Beverly Hills, California, and anti-Semitic posters in Austin, Texas.
According to Berkeleyside, almost identical incidents were seen across the country in Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Virginia, and Maryland. The baggies were also found in surrounding Bay Area communities such as San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, Palo Alto, and Tiburon, as well as Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and other areas of Southern California.
Shayna Silberzweig, a student at Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) and president of the Oakland B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) chapter, a nationwide Jewish youth nonprofit organization, discussed the low media coverage this event attracted.
“It doesn’t surprise me that much, because I think that’s a pattern,” Silberzweig said. “Anti-Semitic attacks [receive] very low media coverage. And it’s scary. Because if things aren’t [highlighted] in the media, then no one knows about it, and then it enables it and normalizes it, and doesn’t scare away [the perpetrator].”
Berkeley Police Department (BPD) urged anyone who has information on this incident to report it.
Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) Superintendent Brent Stephens shared a brief on February 22 in solidarity with the Berkeley Jewish community.
“BUSD stands firmly united against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate, and we stand with our Jewish students, families, staff, and neighbors,” Stephens wrote.
Lula Rosenbach, a Berkeley High School (BHS) sophomore and member of the Oakland BBYO chapter, said her view of the Bay Area shifted after this event.
“[Berkeley] feels not less safe but less supported, since so many people do not recognize that anti-Semitism is such a relevant issue,” Rosenbach said. “People not knowing about the news and things like this contribute to that.”
Rosenbach said no one in her classes nor her non-Jewish friends seemed to be aware of the incident.
“So many people just think, the Holocaust happened, the Holocaust is over, nobody cares, there’s no more anti-Semitism, [and] that’s absolutely not true,” Rosenbach said.