Whenever and wherever anti-Semitism appears, we must do what we can to help stop it.
Case in point: Whitefish, Montana, a lovely small town of 6,500. In the summer, a gateway city to Glacier National Park. In the winter it transforms to a busy ski resort town.
Among Whitefish’s citizens, there are some half-dozen or more Jewish families, including one rabbi. Historically, there have not been any acts of religious bias.
“People have always gotten along,” said an unidentified member of local anti-discrimination group Love Lives Here.
That is, until recently. One of its part-time residents is Richard Spencer, leader of the Alt-Right (neo-Nazi) Movement which supported President-elect Donald Trump. The Anti-Defamation League has identified him as a leader in white supremacist circles.
Spencer’s mother, a longtime Whitefish resident, purchased and developed a property in the downtown area.
Now that her son has returned to Whitefish as head of the National Policy Institute, local residents fear that Spencer would use part of his mother’s property to “grow” his organization, attracting other white supremacists and neo-Nazis to Whitefish.
In 2014, residents of Whitefish, through its City Council, spoke out against discrimination, forming Love Lives Here, and held rallies against Richard Spencer and his organization.
In reacting to local citizens’ moves to pressure his mother to sell her downtown property, Spencer recently turned to a national neo-Nazi group for support and assistance.
The Nazis have reacted by publishing the names and addresses of Whitefish’s Jewish families and they promised to “march 200 strong with weapons through the streets of Whitefish on Martin Luther King Day — Jan. 16.”
Local and state police as well as the FBI are involved in ensuring the protection of people and property in Whitefish.
Hopefully, if the Nazis should show up, they will have no audience other than law enforcement. They want publicity so they really wish as many protestors as possible. Such confrontations would mean news photos and stories. The lack of an audience would make these neo-Nazis appear foolish, which is what they deserve.
The best way, in my opinion, that we can support the good citizens of Whitefish in their struggle against the anti-Semites is to let them know they are not alone. Even if this march does not take place, new maneuvers will probably be planned.
The following is a copy of my note to Mayor John Muhlfeld, city of Whitefish, Montana:
“Many thanks to you and those in your community who have stood tall and strong in the support of those residents threatened by extremist bigots. Please feel reassured that you are not alone. — Sincerely, Jerry Kasten”
By the time TJP readers see this column, we will know what happened in Whitefish on Martin Luther King Day 2017. Whatever occurs, we should not dismiss the Whitefish scenario as unimportant.
Jewish people need to be alert to threats against Jews anywhere in the world.