By YU Observer Staff
All names have been excluded from the article to protect individuals and their safety.
On August 29th, the YU Observer received a message from a senior staff writer at the Brandeis Justice. He informed us of an online forum posted on Vanguard News Network, a Neo-Nazi website, with threads of photos and names of Jewish individuals. Many of these individuals are Yeshiva University students and faculty members. VNN is run by Milton Alex Linder, an avowed white supremacist and former member of the National Alliance, which according to the Anti-Defamation League, was the premier American Neo-Nazi group from the 1970s to 2002.
On VNN’s forum, Stewart Meadows began a thread on June 3rd, 2018, called “Jew journalist says her ‘jewish face’ makes her feel ugly.” In the post, he asked questions to his fellow VNN members about the “physical defects” of the journalist’s “jewishness.” From there, the thread became popular, with Meadows posting a few more photos of Jewish people with their names, saying that they were “more examples of the [Jewish] phenotype.” VNN members responded with comments like “these k*kes are ugly as hell” and saying that Jewish appearances are ugly because of the “money sucked up their big noses” Meadows is even called “Herr Meadows” by a VNN member called the “Widener.” Posters have called the photos “a pure horror show” and say that they “are also proof that [Jews] are creatures of Satan hell-bent on destroying the White race.”
On June 27th, 2018, the first Yeshiva University students are posted by Meadows as “Random jewish students.”
After weeks of posting other Jewish photos with accompanying names, Meadows first mentions Yeshiva University by name on August 29th, 2018. After this, dozens of photos, with hundreds of faces, are posted of YU students and faculty (past and present). These photos are beneath headers called, “Pictures of jews from Yeshiva University.” Some names of YU students are mentioned, with quotes about their work at YU. These photos were taken by YU itself and most likely came from the YU website and YU albums, from events like orientations, chagigas, Cake Wars, and the Seforim Sale. The last post on the forum was published a day ago and includes photos of Jews from diverse religious backgrounds. Thousands of photos and names have been posted in total, with many children among them (including children from YU high schools).
When some YU students discovered this site and that their photos were posted, they began panicking. One anonymous student went to YU security and they are working on filing some form of a police report with the NYPD. Lawyers have informed the Observer that YU may be able to issue a cease and desist letter to VNN. This letter can demand that “another person or business stop an activity that is harassing or infringing. It states that they will be given a certain amount of time to voluntarily stop or [they] will take legal action.” Legal action has been taken in these situations before, due to the precedent set by Taylor Dumpson, a Cardozo School of Law Student, who won $725,000 in a lawsuit against the Daily Stormer, another Neo-Nazi publication.
Even though the forum does not explicitly threaten physical attack against the individuals posted, the names of students and the University, along with photos, have members of YU concerned, with some recommending heightened security.
Josh Joseph, the senior vice president of YU, issued the following statement this afternoon:
“[…]Those photos are part of a much larger collection of images and commentary that includes anti-Semitic and racist language. The content of the online forum targeting members of our community is appalling and offensive. Targeting individuals on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or race is inexcusable. While this situation is obviously disturbing, our Security team has investigated and found no direct threat to the individuals appearing in the photos or to Yeshiva University. We do not believe there is reason to be concerned at this time, and our Security team will continue to monitor the situation. We encourage you to ignore the site and not seek it out or visit it since experts advise that individuals of this nature seek attention.”
Students have told the Observer that they are enraged and afraid. A current student says that when she first saw the thread, she “felt sickened, then angry, then scared. An anti-Semitic incident in and of itself is enough of a reason to scream out in pain, but this has proved itself to be a direct attack against our pocket of a Jewish community.” The Observer is discussing the forum with the Anti-Defamation League and hate speech experts. Updates to come.
If you find your name or face in the article, the YU Observer urges you to file a police report and seek solace in the Counseling Center.