Northbrook village president responds to antisemitic literature: ‘You’re a coward, tell us who you are’

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Northbrook Police are investigating packages of antisemitic literature found in residential Northbrook last week and on June 13.

At Tuesday’s (June 14) Northbrook Board of Trustees meeting at Northbrook Village Hall, Northbrook Village President Kathryn L. Ciesla read a statement from the village board about Northbrook’s antisemitic incidents, but first offered personal comments. Here are excerpts.

“A knucklehead, a coward, put a whole bunch of anonymous notes, anonymous antisemitic flyers in actually two of our neighborhoods,” Ciesla said. “This coward doesn’t sign his flyers.

“I want to say very clearly, you’re a coward,” Ciesla said.

The wave of activity is part of a recent trend of antisemitic packets found locally.

On April 24, an estimated 200 people attended the United Against Antisemitism Rally at The Glen in Glenview to address anti-Jewish activity in Glenview and on the North Shore. The rally was launched by Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton (14th District) of Glenview after he received at his residence March 3 what he described as antisemitic hate literature.

Elected officials and citizens from around the suburbs filled an Attea Middle School multipurpose room that day. Northbrook elected officials were among rally attendees.

“Tell us who you are,” Ciesla said Tuesday. “Hate has no home here, antisemitism has no home here, discrimination has no home here. This is a community that will not tolerate that, so go crawl back under the rock that you came from.

“We don’t want you here.”

Bags of literature were weighted by rocks along rims of residential driveways. Northbrook police may have access to security videos to help in locating the source of the literature, but pending usage was not confirmed.

Ciesla was contacted by members of the local Jewish community to thank the village for its stand.

Ciesla confirmed that talks on Tuesday with the Jewish United Fund (JUF) will lead to educational programming and other community actions to help address the Northbrook wave.

After the meeting, Ciesla said, “What’s upsetting is that people think like this, right?

“It’s upsetting that people are so bigoted.”

Ciesla’s comments took place on the same evening that a proclamation was read designating June 19, 2022 in Northbrook in honor of the federal holiday Juneteenth.

Hearing about the uptick in antisemitic activity by Ciesla caused Northbrook Village Trustee Joy U. Ebhomielen to be, “actually shocked.

Northbrook Village Trustee Joy U. Ebhomielen at Tuesday’s Village Board of Trustees meeting. Images from Northbrook on June 14, 2022. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)

“I was shocked to hear about it,” Ebhomielen said. “We have such a significant Jewish community here that it just comes as a surprise to me that somebody would even start targeting people.”

At Village Hall, as the sun was setting on June 14 on what happened to also be Flag Day, the Progress Pride flag for Pride Month had moments of being dramatically unfurled on a windy, humid upper 90 degree clear evening.

Within the Northbrook downtown vicinity, Progress Pride flag banners are bright beacons installed as village street signage.

During the board meeting, Ciesla handed the Juneteenth proclamation to Alice Lonoff of Northbrook, a member of the village’s Community Commission.

Visibly proud, Lonoff immediately showed the document to audience members Melissa Dane of Northbrook, Jennifer Saperstein of Northbrook, and Saperstein’s daughter Zoe Saperstein, 15, a rising sophomore at Glenbrook North High School.

Inside the Sandra “Sandy” Frum Board Room at Northbrook Village Hall, far right, Alice Lonoff of Northbrook, member of the Community Commission, shows the Juneteenth proclamation to, from left to right, Melissa Dane of Northbrook, Jennifer Saperstein of Northbrook, and daughter Zoe Saperstein, 15, a rising sophomore at Glenbrook North High School. Image from Northbrook on June 14, 2022. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)

As the brief Board of Trustees meeting was ending, Jennifer Saperstein and Dane talked about antisemitism in Northbrook.

Of Ciesla’s news, “It was upsetting,” said Jennifer Saperstein, chair of the Community Commission, who had just learned that evening of the June 13 incidents.

Dane, a Community Commission member, said, “The person is a coward and just riling people up. Obviously this is a high percentage Jewish community.

“I was impressed and just really appreciative that the board would not only issue a statement, but take a moment at the board meeting to really speak out about it, and make sure they’re doing whatever they can to support the entire community,” Dane said.

A social post on a neighborhood app shows a photo taken on Braeside Lane in east Northbrook of a zip-lock clear green topped plastic bag. The packet held rice and literature showing a swastika. The photographed bag was found shortly after sunrise by a neighbor taking a walk.

One of the packet’s papers reads, “Every single aspect of the media is Jewish.”

The Northbrook social poster wrote, “I haven’t opened it to read more of its sickening message as I will hand these over to the police.

“Every driveway down the street had a baggie.”

Alice Lonoff is part of RAIN (Racial Awareness in the North Shore), a local organization founded in 2015.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Lonoff said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

The Progress Pride flag flies at Northbrook Village Hall, 1225 Cedar Lane. Image from Northbrook on June 14, 2022. (Karie Angell Luc / Pioneer Press)

Mary Hansen of Northbrook, a member of RAIN, appeared before the board to speak about acceptance and belonging in the community.

“We’re in a transition time,” Hansen said after the meeting. “Transitions are always tough.

“But,” Hansen said, “we’re making it.”

Ebhomielen is encouraged by Northbrook’s Juneteenth proclamation.

Still, “I think we have a whole lot of work to do,” Ebhomielen said, “but we’re moving forward.”

Karie Angell Luc is a freelancer for Pioneer Press.

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June 16, 2022 at 08:58AM

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