Antisemitic, White Supremacist Propaganda Litters Collingswood Lawns


Neighbors report packages from the Goyim Defense League were distributed across the borough Saturday afternoon. 

By Matt Skoufalos | May 20, 2024

Antisemitic literature from GDL, as found in Collingswood in May 2024. Credit: NJPEN.

Dean Bridges picked it up off the lawn of a house on Lincoln Avenue on Saturday evening, around 5:30 p.m.

It was a small white packet, wrapped in a clear plastic bag, which stood out against the green of the grass as he walked past.

The neighboring houses had similar packages on their lawns; some were on the curb strips near the roadway.

“These looked like they were tossed by someone driving, like a newspaper person would do it,” Bridges said.

At first glance, each of the packages appeared to contain the same items: a small pamphlet, folded in half, stickers, and a brightly colored lollipop. But when Bridges realized what he was holding, he discreetly put it in his pocket and continued on his way.

“I didn’t want to be seen carrying it,” he said. “We got to my friend’s house and said, ‘Look what I just found.’”

The materials Bridges had collected were produced by the Goyim Defense League (GDL), an antisemitic group that has been particularly active in disseminating white nationalist propaganda from California to Florida, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), after whose name the group styles its own.

The literature was expansive in its condemnation of the Jewish people and their culture, attempting to link them to contemporary social ills, Biblical-era scapegoating, and topical political messaging.

Stickers accompanying the pamphlet carried the slogan “White Lives Matter,” and bemoaned the global minority of white people as though it were a novel circumstance and not a long-established demographic data point.

The full contents of the propaganda packet distributed in Collingswood May 18, 2024. Credit: NJPEN.

The rhetoric in the package was quite familiar to Andrew Goretsky, Regional Director of ADL Philadelphia, who said GDL “plays on ages-old stereotypes about Jewish people that are not true,” often as a fundraising tool.

“People are looking for scapegoats in their ideology,” Goretsky said. “There’s really no political locus on anti-Semitism; GDL has just tried to monetize it. Part of their website is for people to give them money.”

The principal aim of the group is to spread lies about the Jewish community, intimidate its people, and to try to recruit others “into this hateful and false ideology,” even without any specific pretext, he said.

“When we see this in communities, that’s the intent,” Goretsky said. “When people are anxious about something, nervous about something, they look for conspiracy theories. They look to blame the other; they look for a simple explanation.”

Although GDL has been active across other parts of the country, it hasn’t popped up in the Philadelphia metro area since 2022, Goretsky said. (Perhaps coincidentally, it was around that time that white nationalist propaganda from the Christian Revival Center was left on a PATCO Speedline train in the borough.)

“It’s the first time we’ve gotten a report of this in Collingswood, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before,” Goretsky said. “These things go grossly unreported.”

Although the propaganda contains a disclaimer — “these flyers were distributed randomly without malicious intent” — that’s a catchall designed to absolve the distributors from incurring bias crime charges.

Reporting instances of encountering white supremacist propaganda, both to law enforcement and neighbors in the community, avoids minimizing the scope and impact of the issue.

“Even if it ends up not rising to illegal behavior, having an understanding of what’s happening and where it’s happening gives us information to work together to correct the narrative,” Goretsky said.

“We also need leaders to call it out for what it is, which is antisemitism and hate,” he said. “If they ignore it, it continues to spread.”

The vehicle allegedly driven by people disseminating white supremacist propaganda in Collingswood in May 2024. Credit: Matt Walker.

That was the perspective of Collingswood resident Matt Walker, who spotted the vehicle disseminating the GDL packages on his home security camera Saturday.

To his eye, it appeared to be a late-model, blue Mazda 3.

Walker’s footage captured a person tossing the packages out of the car as it drove down his street.

In some shots, the passenger appeared to be filming while throwing them.

“They know what they’re doing is wrong,” Walker said.

“This is a fake construct, the same thing with race. We’re all humans and it’s kind of [messed up] that anyone would feel this way about another human.”

Walker was similarly bothered by the anonymous solicitation of white nationalist literature in a town where even “PSE&G can’t come to my house without a permit.

“If anyone knows these people, let’s know what they are,” he said. “They can stand behind this decision.”

Bridges had a similar perspective on the package that he found on the way to his friend’s house.

“I’m very aware that people are like that; there’s probably people in this town that are like that,” he said. “They’ve always been there. Unfortunately, people think it’s okay for them to spread this poison, and it’s not.”

Bruce Smith, who heads up the Collingswood Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee similarly said that he’s not surprised when he encounters hate speech, whether it lands in Collingswood or not.

Andrew Faupel outside Kenkojuku Karate in Collingswood. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

“Targeting is targeting,” Smith said.

“The goal is to create dissention and fear, and whether you do that generally to a group of people, or specifically to a person, the level of fear does not become less because of that intent,” he said.

“When actions like this take place, we should be thinking about our Jewish population, having the same direct conversations, and creating the same safe spaces for them to be able to speak and talk about their experiences.”

Smith believes the timing of such messaging always seeks an opportunity to leverage anxiety around any hot-button current events, and Collingswood has seen its share of bigoted vandalism in the recent past.

The destruction of a display window at Kenkojuku Karate, the whitewashing of a Pride-themed crosswalk on Thanksgiving, and the defacement of a student’s car with racial epithets have all occurred in the past seven months.

“Things like this tend to happen when complicated issues are taking place,” Smith said. “That portion of it gets louder when there’s a sense of opportunity to create dissention.

“It always exists, but when there’s an opportunity to exploit it, it gets louder.”

Goretsky advised that anyone who encounters bias propaganda or endures any such behavior in a personal interaction, to report it immediately.

“Record it,” he said. “Report it to law enforcement. Report it to the ADL. Let your local and community leaders know about it.”

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