North Carolina

Jewish temple finds ‘disturbing’ note and DVD, North Carolina cops say

Someone deposited “offensive” and “disturbing content” at a synagogue in North Carolina just before one of the Jewish high holidays, police said.

Now law enforcement is investigating.

Temple Emanuel reported the incident to the Winston-Salem Police Department on Sept. 13, police told McClatchy news group in an email.

“At this point, I can confirm that the WSPD is investigating an incident regarding a document which contained offensive/disturbing content,” Captain C.A. Lowder said. “The investigation is active and outside law enforcement agencies through our assigned Task Force Officers are currently assisting our agency.”

Shelley Lynch, a spokesperson for the FBI office in Charlotte, told McClatchy her office is “aware of the pamphlets” and communicating with police “in case information related to a federal violation is uncovered.”

The Winston-Salem Journal first reported the incident Thursday, citing an email that was sent to the synagogue’s congregants.

Rabbi Mark Cohn confirmed the email was sent but declined to comment, saying only that this is the first such incident Temple Emanuel has seen in recent years.

Police responded to the synagogue around 11:45 a.m. on Sept. 13 — a little more than two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Jewish New Year, which starts Sunday evening.

According to the incident report, responding officers found one note and one DVD.

Lowder did not elaborate on what information those materials contained or where they were found. He also said no arrests have been made or charges filed.

In addition to police, Temple Emanuel reported the incident to the Anti-Defamation League.

“We had a report of clearly anti-Semitic, white supremacist literature being left at the location,” Doron Ezickson, head of the ADL’s Washington D.C. office, told McClatchy.

ADL is a self-proclaimed “anti-hate organization” founded in-part to stop antisemitism. Ezickson said they also provide resources on hate groups, extremist symbols and the ideologies associated with them.

The ADL has recorded 58 similar incidents in North Carolina between 2018 and 2019 — including 31 instances of white supremacist propaganda and 24 instances of antisemitism.

None were reported in Winston-Salem during that time frame.

“The intent of somebody who wants to spread hate is to have maximum disruptive impact, potentially with minimal effort,” Ezickson said, citing the psychology of a hate crime.

Police did not say whether they’ve increased security measures at the temple, and Cohn declined to answer.

But other groups have rallied behind the synagogue in the days since.

“We condemn this act of anti-Semitic hate and stand in solidarity with the North Carolina Jewish community,”Ibrahim Hooper, the communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement Thursday.

CAIR said Temple Emanuel was also named on a white supremacist blog.

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.