Los Angeles

Hate Mail Sent to Los Angeles, New York Businesses With Jewish Owners

The source of hate mail that juxtaposed a swastika and President Trump's campaign slogan is under investigation in Los Angeles and New York, authorities said.

"We were in shock when we saw it out of the blue," said Mervyn Hahn, whose shop, Los Angeles Diamond Factory, received one of the hate letters that were also sent to at least seven shops in New York, all with owners who are Jewish.

At the top of the one page flyer is a Nazi swastika on a red background. Below it is printed, "Make America Great Again!!!" and then vulgar phrases disparaging minority groups.

Hahn's wife Gelenda was going through the mail on Monday, the first business day after the Jewish High Holy Day of Yom Kippur, when she came across the letter, gasping loud enough that her husband heard.

None of the envelopes had return addresses. But the last line on the flyer implied which hate movement sent it.

"Christian Identity is back," it stated.

"Christian Identity is the racist religion of white supremacy," said Professor Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. Across the nation, Christian Identity has an estimated 25-30,000 adherents, Levin said. Aryan Nations is among the groups that has subscribed to the Christian Identity racist dogma that only certain Western European whites were created in God's likeness.

While there is no evidence in any increase in the numbers of white supremacists, it appears they have become bolder in the past year, said Levin, citing an uptick in hate crimes and public white supremacist events. 

"I think these people, in an era of nationalism, feel they are emboldened and can hide under those coattails," Levin said.

Los Angeles Diamond Factory is located amid hundreds of shops in downtown LA's jewelry district.   Hahn said he had no idea how the hate mailer picked his. It is one of the longest-established shops under continuous ownership, dating back to 1980.  The hate letter was addressed to the business, not him personally.

Levin said it is possible the businesses on the mailer's list were chosen at random. 

The letter included a German phrase used in the 1930's as Nazi exhortation for the expulsion of those of Jewish ancestry. It also used crude epithets for Gays and those of African descent, asserting they "must burn in hell."

Stunned at receiving the letter, Hahn said his rabbi advised him to report it to law enforcement. LAPD assigned the investigation to its elite Robbery Homicide Division.

Local authorities in New York city are also investigating the letters sent there, and the FBI confirmed that it is also looking at the mailing.

Evaluating whether the letters made an explicit threat is crucial to determining whether or not a crime was committed, or is protected as free speech. 

Hahn had mixed feelings about discussing the letter. He wants people to be informed, he said, but at the same time recoils from giving attention to hate mongerers.

"The last thing we want to do is given them recognition," said Hahn, before adding, "People have to realize there are groups around who are anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-gay. We have to be aware."

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