Antisemitic Posters Spread Around State College

Photo of the State College Borough building, where borough meetings are held.
Photo of the State College Borough building, where borough meetings are held.
Caleb Schrauf

On Oct. 2, 2023, the State College Borough had their regularly scheduled meeting. This time, however, something was different. 

Mayor Ezra J. Nanes gave an overview. “I want to address an event that took place this weekend, that involved the placing of hate filled literature at the homes of people in our community. It includes my friend our former council president Evan Myers who’s here, and I’ll recognize Evan to speak. Members of his neighborhood all received these flyers thrown onto their properties,” Nanes said during the meeting. 

Nanes continued, “I’m a Jew, I’m proud of it, I’m proud of my identity and my heritage. And an attack on a Jew is an attack on all of us, an attack on any person based on their identity, whether it be an ethnic, religious, national, gender, racial, ability. It is an attack on all of us. We are a community founded on inclusion and welcoming and empowering all people. And so I want to condemn these acts. And I want to encourage all people to express their needs and their feelings and not make this about other people’s identities but about what we need as a community.”. 

The meeting addressed the anti-semitic flyers that were distributed throughout the neighborhoods.

“The flyers were about how people are letting foreigners in and the usual conspiracies about international figures – who are all [supposedly] Jewish, who were somehow responsible for bringing this about. Earlier, there was similar literature distributed on campus, back around September 11, which was then distributed to Evan Myers and others around September 30 or so. I’ve seen things like this before in various places, but I’ve just never seen it in State College,” Borough Council President, Jesse L. Barlow said in an interview. 

During the meeting, Barlow also stepped up to support Nanes.

“I’ve been a Jewish convert since 1999, though I am no longer observant. My children were raised Jewish, their late mother – may her memory be a blessing – was Jewish. I am torn by two emotions. One is heartbreak for the Myers’ and others who have been afflicted by this. The other is an outrage that is impossible for me to overstate. This is a diverse community. Many religions, many nationalities, many peoples, many kinds of people. The elementary school near me, as of a few years ago, had families that spoke 27 languages among them. The kind of hatred expressed by this literature strikes at the heart of our community and at everything that we want to be,” Barlow said.

Evan Myers a former council president and victim of the hate literature, spoke out against the attacks in State College and promoted the idea that the city should be a safe and welcoming community.

“Vile antisemitic flyers were on the sidewalk in front of my home, apparently thrown out of a car window. But I was not the only one targeted within my neighborhood. Many received them. They were directed at Jews and Non-Jews alike. Now, one may ask, what does this have to do with local government, why bring it up here? Well, I would say it has everything to do with local government because one of the main responsibilities of local government is to protect its residents from fear and intimidation. We need to stand strong in the face of this hate.”

Myers went on to state how antisemitism has implications for other forms of discrimination.

“Look, antisemitism is a clear and present danger. But make no mistake about it. It’s part of a larger pattern of hate. Racism, homophobia, islamophobia, misogyny, anti-immigrant bias, anti-Asian bias, they are all cut from the same cloth,” Myers said.

Other council members stepped up in support of their fellow community members and reiterated the idea that this hate should not be tolerated on any level and should be condemned in our community. Evan Myers’ closing statement was a powerful reminder of what the world and society as a whole should be striving for.

“So to conclude, Elie Wiesel, Nobel prize winner and Holocaust survivor said, ‘I swore never to be silent. Human beings enduring suffering and humiliation, we must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence and courage is the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes, we must interfere when human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, their religion, or their political views, that place must at that moment become the center of the universe.’ So tonight, I think our community must be the center of our universe and tonight we really must stand out against hate and violence,” Myers said. 

Myers finished his speech with a strong concluding statement. As for the posters, it is uncertain if they are still being passed out to the public.

A few days after the incident, Barlow said in the interview, “I don’t know that anything is still being handed out, because I haven’t heard anything about it. I hope we’ve scared them off and people are on the alert for it.”

Overall, the members of the board showed support for overcoming the prejudices facing this community and American society as a whole. In that meeting, the voice of courage silenced the message of hate. 

Quotes featured in this article were gathered from the Centre County meeting and an interview with Jesse L. Barlow, Council President.

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