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Saturday, August 8, 2020

L.A. Jewelry Store Hit With Anti-Semitic Mailer

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Eitan Arom
Eitan Arom is a Jewish Journal senior writer, covering a range of local Jewish issues such as civic engagement, culture, Holocaust memory, faith-based activism, politics and people. Before that, he worked as a freelance journalist in Jerusalem, Washington D.C and Los Angeles. He graduated from UCLA with bachelor's degrees in mathematics/economics and communication studies.

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Glenda Hahn was checking the mail on Oct. 2 in the back room of the Los Angeles Diamond Factory, the downtown shop she runs with her husband, when she came across an envelope addressed in large, black capital letters.

Inside the envelope was a printed letter with an image of a swastika, along with racial and homophobic epithets and the slogan “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!”

“The image of that swastika just freaked me out,” Hahn told the Journal in a joint phone interview with her husband, Mervyn.

The letter was one of at least nine identical mailings to Jewish-owned businesses across the country and the only one targeting a business in L.A., according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The other mailings were sent to businesses in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“It is disturbing that Jewish-owned businesses in Los Angeles and New York City were apparently intentionally targeted with the same piece of racist and bigoted hate mail,” said ADL Pacific Southwest Regional Director Amanda Susskind. “We are monitoring this and looking into whether these flyers are connected with any particular hate group, or if they are appearing in other places around the country.”

The letters include the phrase “CHRISTIAN IDENTITY IS BACK,” which the ADL said is an apparent reference to Christian Identity, a racist, far-right white supremacist ideology.

Despite its small number of adherents, Christian Identity “influences virtually all white supremacist and extreme anti-government movements,” according to ADL’s Center on Extremism. “It has also informed criminal behavior ranging from hate crimes to acts of terrorism.”

Nonetheless, Mervyn Hahn, who served in South Africa’s military and as a police officer before immigrating to Los Angeles with his wife in 1980, said he was unafraid.

“I haven’t hired any special security,” he said. “I don’t want these idiots to think that they’ve affected my life. Deep down, am I worried? Not even, because I know these are a bunch of losers that hide under rocks and only come out in large groups.”

But Mervyn Hahn, whose German grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust, still found the letters upsetting. “Nobody wants to receive a swastika at the best of times,” he said.

His wife said she is “a little more afraid than he is.”

“The fact that we were the only ones in L.A. [to receive the letter] just concerns me,” she said. “I’m not sure why we were targeted or for what reason.”

The couple, who attend synagogue at Chabad of Agoura Hills, had closed up shop for Yom Kippur before returning on Oct. 2 to find the letter. Mervyn Hahn said he considered staying quiet about the letter to “make it disappear and make [the sender] feel completely worthless.”

But after businesses in New York went public, he decided to contact law enforcement and the press. He said the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department were both investigating.

In New York, the owner of Weiss Kosher Bakery contacted New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who visited the bakery and tweeted a picture of himself with the letter.

“We take hate crimes VERY seriously here,” Hikind tweeted, adding that he had contacted the New York Police Department.

Though the letter contained a slogan used by President Donald Trump during his election campaign, Hahn said he didn’t connect it with politics.

“Anti-Semitism has been around many, many years,” Mervyn Hahn said. “I think now they just feel a little better about advertising who they are.”

“More empowered,” his wife added.

The Hahns said they were relieved the letter was sent to their business address and mentioned neither of them by name. Nonetheless, they found the letter disturbing.

“Who needs this aggravation?” Mervyn said.

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