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Two Holocaust-denial posters found outside Marblehead temple

MARBLEHEAD -- Two posters depicting denial of the Holocaust were found outside the Temple Emanu-El Monday morning, an incident one Anti-Defamation League official described as a targeted, calculated attack on the Jewish people. 

One of the anti-Semitic signs was found on the Atlantic Avenue temple's welcome sign adjacent to its front steps, according to Emanu-El Rabbi David Meyer. He said surveillance footage is being reviewed, but he believes a known neo-Nazi group placed the signs there overnight. 

The posters reported that the Holocaust itself is fake news and a deliberate lie of the Jewish people. Holocaust denial is one of the recurring themes of anti-Semitism, as well as anti-Israel rhetoric, according to Meyer, who sent out an email to temple membership on Monday alerting them of what he called the "hate message." 

"Clearly, this was a message that was meant to be delivered to us because the message was found on our property," Meyer said. "While it is distressing and sad knowing that these incidents continue right here in our town, at the same time, the support that we've already begun to receive from the different communities of faith, from the local public safety officials and the good townspeople is heartening." 

The incident has been reported to Marblehead Police, which has launched an investigation, and to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a civil rights and human relations agency which was founded to stop the defamation of Jewish people.

ADL's Center on Extremism has verified the incident to be part of a coordinated white supremacist flyer distribution campaign spanning multiple states and regions. 

Robert Trestan, ADL's New England executive director, said the organization was "deeply disturbed" by the anti-Semitic attack on the Marblehead temple, which was directed at a Jewish audience, and was aware of similar flyering incidents at synagogues in Washington and Texas. 

"It's a pretty targeted attack when you go onto a synagogue's property for the sole purpose of disseminating an anti-Semitic message," Trestan said. "The temple was targeted in a deliberate and calculated manner for the sole purpose of sending a message of hate and intimidation to the community." 

Marblehead Police Chief Robert Picariello said the department is actively investigating and trying to establish when the incident took place. A suspect or suspects have not been identified and potential charges are unclear. 

"I won't know that until we have completed our investigation and we can review the facts," Picariello said. 

The anti-Semitic message discovered at Temple Emanu-El is not an isolated circumstance in town. Meyer said there's been "quite a bit" of incidents over the past several years, which included anti-Semitic graffiti on a harbor causeway wall two years ago that led to a community rally against hate. No community response has been planned for this occurrence. 

"Sadly, anti-Semitism is a growing phenomenon yet again," said Meyer. 

The uptick in Marblehead incidents is in line with an increase in anti-Semitic incidents statewide in recent years, according to Trestan.

In the first five months of the year, the ADL has tracked 28 flyering incidents in Massachusetts, which already exceeds the 26 incidents that occurred last year. In the past several months, there have been attempted arsons at two synagogues, Arlington and Needham, and 59 headstones were desecrated with anti-Semitic language in a Jewish cemetery in Fall River, according to Trestan. 

Trestan attributed the increase in anti-Semitism incidents to the current political and social climate. People are feeling a little more emboldened and blazoned in sharing their hatred, he said. 

"Increasingly Jews and Jewish institutions are becoming direct targets," Trestan said. "We see anti-Semitism on the Internet and in cyber space and out in the community, but to go onto the property of a Jewish synagogue seems to be really direct and in your face. 

"If you're Jewish and you're part of the community that belongs to the synagogue, you can't avoid this. It's not a website you can avoid because this is at your front door. Someone chose to come to the synagogue's front door to disseminate hatred toward Jews."

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