An anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim flier, right, mailed to Garfield residents before last week’s school board elections, has prompted a call for investigation from the mayor and town council. The anonymous mailing attacked three school board candidates, none of whom was elected.
“This flier was a disgrace,” said Garfield Mayor Frank Calandriello. “It’s not symbolic of the people in our town.”
The mayor introduced a resolution, which passed unanimously at Tuesday’s town council meeting, requesting that “all appropriate” local, county, state, and federal agencies “investigate the preparation and distribution” of the flier. According to the resolution, the flier “is hateful, promotes racial, ethnic, and religious stereotypes and is generally offensive.”
“It’s incredibly offensive,” said Etzion Neuer, New Jersey regional director for the Anti-Defamation League. “From beginning to end, this thing is disgusting.”
“This is reprehensible. Hitleresque,” said Jim Miller, the school board candidate who was portrayed on the flier wearing a yarmulke and Jewish star, alongside a picture of a menorah topped with Miller Beer bottles.
“I had hoped that our township would have reacted in kind to such vile filth…. My hope was that it would have turned the election,” said Miller, who is Jewish. “I don’t want to make a comment that would accuse anybody,” he added. “I want to find out who did it.”
It could not be determined how many residents received the mailing, but all were notified before the election.
“I actually had a robo-call to the city endorsing those three candidates,” said the mayor. “We quickly changed the wording to condemn the mailing.” He also raised the issue in a pre-election rally the day the fliers were received.
Sam Faltas, another candidate smeared by the flier, said, “I was just infuriated by the whole thing.”
Faltas, who was born in Egypt, is Christian, not Muslim as implied by the flier. He served in the U.S. Air Force during Operation Desert Storm, he said.
“I want whoever did this to be held accountable and punished accordingly,” he said.
“The content made me sick to my stomach,” said Susan Nogaj, the third candidate on the flyer. “Garfield politics have always been dirty and mud-slinging but they’ve never reached this level.”
“If there’s any way to find out who did it, I would love to know,” said Patricia DiCostanzo, superintendent of elections for Bergen County, “Our hands are tied because there’s nothing really to go on.”
DiCostanzo said she had passed the flier on to the county prosecutor’s office for possible investigation.
“This is just so foul in my eyes, and unnecessary for a school board election,” she said.
Calls to the Bergen County Prosecutors Office were not returned.
Neuer of the ADL said the anti-Semitism behind the flier should not be extrapolated to brand Garfield as anti-Semitic.
“This particular election brought out the worst in somebody,” he said. “I don’t think it’s reflective of any broader sentiment in the town itself.”
Neuer said he could not recall any similar anti-Semitic campaign literature targeting a Jewish candidate in his five years in New Jersey.