Ari Hoffman is the vice president of Congregation Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath in Seattle and a former candidate for Seattle City Council. He has been featured on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper, Fox and Friends, The Dr. Drew Show and The Glen Beck Program.
I knew things had gotten out of control when my child’s photo appeared on the far-right online forum, 8Chan, with the word “kikelet” used to describe him. What followed was a stream of disturbing comments and suggestions on how to murder my family. There was a confession from the alleged originator of this post stating that he was a “leftist” trying to rile up the neo-Nazis against me. Anti-Semitism had arrived literally at my front door in the form a business card from the Seattle Police Department asking me to call them when they could not locate me.
My entry into the realm of public exposure was not by design. I am a board member of a Jewish cemetery. In April 2017, I received a call from the cemetery’s groundskeeper. People were camping out in the parking lots and there appeared to be a presence of drug abusers and prostitutes. This privately owned, sacred site had been brought into a cycle of vandalism. Every morning the grounds staff were forced to dispose of used needles, human feces, trash and condoms that were strewn about—including on the graves themselves.
Parked RVs used the cemetery’s utilities and dumped human waste on the property. Our groundskeeper was assaulted after he confronted the campers. Overdose victims were found near death on the grounds. Our understaffed SPD had their hands tied on enforcement by the Seattle City Council and were not able to respond appropriately.
I contacted Debora Juarez (D), Seattle City Council member who represents the district where the cemetery is located. At the scheduled meeting with dozens of members of the Jewish community and the media waiting, councilmember Juarez never showed. I then reached out to council president Bruce Harrell (D). He initially refused to meet with us. I started an email and phone campaign until he relented and agreed to a meeting. The exchange was unproductive.
Local media and safety groups were helpful advocates in bringing an awareness to the issue affecting our cemeteries. It was through their efforts that this story drew national and international attention.
The “campers” moved on to avoid the moment’s spotlight but returned when the media hype waned. I reached out to the local papers for coverage, including Jewish in Seattle magazine. They all passed.
Every Memorial Day, the Jewish War Veterans together with families from local synagogues place flags at the graves of fallen soldiers. There was now a safety concern. I sought the help of former members of the Israel Defense Forces to volunteer as security during this event. The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle informed the Seattle Police Department (SPD) that they didn’t feel I was taking the right approach. Though they didn’t think it was likely that I or someone else with my group would shoot a trespasser, they felt it irresponsible to not share my “plans” with the police. They even told the SPD that I was “planning on shooting homeless people in the cemeteries.”
The incidents surrounding the cemetery and the homelessness crisis in the city directly conflicts with the promoted narrative of “progressive” politicians. They argue that this is all a result of housing affordability. Their solution has been to stop the enforcement of laws and allow public “camping” and open drug usage.
For vocalizing a different view on this subject, I began to receive online threats and harassing calls. My family cancelled our landline after receiving messages telling us to “pave over the cemeteries” and make them into homeless encampments.
I decided that I would run for a city council seat in attempt to bring changes. I quickly became a point of fascination to a local left-wing blogger, a vocal supporter of antifa who has voiced support of terrorists in Israel. He encouraged theft of my candidacy’s yard signs, created videos claiming I was anti-Muslim and organized boycotts of businesses that donated to my campaign.
Social media groups became havens for antisemitic comments. The vicious protest campaign caught the attention of antifa activists. They targeted my political campaign and personal life. In June, I received a note from SPD asking me to contact them. Targeted threats were made against my family. These were started by one claiming to be a “neighbor” and had been posted on 8chan, an online portal known for usage amongst hate groups.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) reached out to the mayor’s office asking for an immediate public condemnation on the targeted antisemitic threats toward my family. No condemnations followed from the mayor or any elected city officials until eight days later, when the mayor released a private statement addressed to the AJC director with condemnations on anti-Semitism.
AJC asked the mayor’s office if they would directly release the statement to the public. They refused.
In October, a yard sign for an African American candidate was defaced with a racial slur. The mayor and council members all immediately and separately issued condemnation statements.
The Stranger, a local left-wing news publication, thought it amusing to mock the death threats against me by naming “Ari Hoffman’s Neighbor” a member of their endorsement staff. King County Young Democrats, for the first time in their history issued a “Do not vote for under any circumstances” against me. I was never invited to participate in any of their candidate forums and told my representatives I was not allowed to participate.
I have been called a racist, a fascist, a white supremacist, a Nazi, and strangest of all, an anti-Semite by those who label themselves liberals or progressives.
In August, antisemitic flyers were posted on four synagogues, including mine. In October, there were a series of assaults by a known antifa activist. He was arrested and charged with a hate crime. AJC stepped up, assisted the victims and had an opinion piece published in The Seattle Times. It questioned why these blatantly antisemitic acts don’t deserve the same swift condemnations or condemnations at all as other forms of discrimination rightfully do.
When I speak of my experiences, I’m said to be “weaponizing accusations of anti-Semitism”, that it can’t possibly be that bad, or that I’ve fabricated it all. A local event titled “Intersectional Dialogue on Weaponizing Charges of Anti-Semitism” was sponsored by the ACLU, NAACP and the Women’s March among others.
Seattle’s elected officials remained silent when their supporters attacked my family and my community. The silence of some Jewish organizations that are thought to be on the forefront of these issues, isn’t forgotten as well. Condemning other “isms” is one thing, but don’t ignore the anti-Semitism in the process.