Rabbi in Kentucky Responds to Anti-Semitism with Education

August 18, 2020

Rabbi Shlomo Litvin of Lexington, Kentucky wants to educate people about Judaism and anti-Semitism in response to recent anti-Semitic incidents in his community. After being threatened by a Neo-Nazi for denouncing anti-Semitic leaflets scattered around his community this month, Rabbi Litvin and his wife are gearing up to offer two classes to counter hate, according to the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS).

Rabbi Litvin and his wife Shoshi, who run the Chabad of the Bluegrass, began receiving calls last week from local Jewish residents as well as concerned non-Jewish neighbors, who received the letters stating in part, “Blood and Soil…Jews will not replace us, Blacks will not replace us, Mexicans and will not replace us…”

Commenting on the letters, Rabbi Litvin told JNS, “We are at a hyper-sensitive time in our history when we need to be vigilant and after [the killing of Jews in] Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City and Monsey, people are on guard. So the Jews who saw the fliers wanted a response, and the non-Jews who saw it wanted to assure me that they got the flier but that it doesn’t speak for them, which is exactly the right response.”

Rabbi Litvin was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky where his parents had established a Chabad House in 1985. Litvin estimates that about 8,000 Jews live in Kentucky, with about 1,800 in the Lexington area. The Litvins work with the local Jewish community as well as with students who attend the University of Kentucky.

In response to the hateful fliers posted around the community, the Litvins created a flyer of their own that read, “You Matter…remember you are irreplaceable! Your unique background and experience add to our incredible community.” Rabbi Litvin was subsequently featured in local media, after which events turned personal. The Rabbi answered a call from an unfamiliar number when a man launched into an anti-Semitic diatribe against the Rabbi.

According to Rabbi Litvin’s interview with JNS, the man “asked if I was Rabbi Litvin, and I said I was. He then said, ‘This isn’t a death threat,’ but he launched into a rant, a diatribe. He said he was with the organization that spread the fliers, and I lied about him in media and he has the video to prove it … and with my counter letter, I broke the law. This was in between various curse words. And then said that ‘My Jewish blood will not protect me.’ ”

Litvin has a young family at home and immediately contacted law enforcement in response to the threatening call. The fliers were allegedly attributed to individuals affiliated with a neo-Nazi group called 14 First The Foundation. Law enforcement traced the call to Rabbi Litvin to the group’s organizer in Washington state.

After the call from the Neo-Nazi leader, Litvan said, “This hasn’t hampered our efforts in any way.”  The Litvins are planning to use these recent incidents as a teaching moment and will be providing two courses to the public in order to teach about Judaism and anti-Semitism. One course will serve as an introduction to Judaism and the second course will be an in-depth look at what constitutes anti-Semitism and how to identify it.

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