Neo-Nazi Forum Posts Photos of YU Students and Staff
Photos featuring hundreds of former and current YU students and faculty members were published on the Vanguard News Network (VNN) forum, a white supremacist platform that identifies as an “uncensored forum for whites.” YU Campus Security called the content “appalling and offensive” and informed students that they had found “no direct threat to the individuals appearing in the photos or to Yeshiva University.”
While the discussions on the forum generally revolve around mocking Jews, a handful of pages are dedicated to ridiculing members of the YU community alone. The discussion thread concerning YU students and staff started around May 2018, and the pictures appear to have been taken from public sources, such as YU’s Flickr page.
VNN is run by Alex Linder, a former member of the neo-Nazi organization National Alliance. Linder is a known leader of white supremacist protests and was arrested in 2007 for attacking a police officer during a neo-Nazi rally. VNN’s motto, “No Jews. Just Right.,” mirrors the anti-Semitic sentiments of the forum, as Jews are referred to as rat-like and blood-thirsty beings, and popular tags on the forum include “Jewish nose” and “Jews inbreeding.” One user on the forum called the international Hillel organization “a group of Jewish supremacist thugs,” and another referred to a Holocaust survivor as an “alleged Shlomocaust survivor.”
The Commentator discovered these photos after receiving a tip from a staff writer who works for The Justice, Brandeis University’s independent student newspaper. According to The Justice, Brandeis Police are working with the FBI to investigate the matter and reported that there is no immediate threat to the community. The Justice reported that “the investigation into the posts is ongoing and Public Safety is monitoring the forum.”
Shortly after the Brandeis investigation became known to the public, VNN forum users started posting comments mocking the institution. One user commented, “We're just shaking in our socks, Juden!!!!!!”
Pictures of the YU community appeared after numerous pages that were dedicated to posting photos of the faces of Jews. Users primarily targeted women for looking “too manly.” The debate revolving Jews’ physical appearance was sparked by an article posted in The Jewish Chronicle, in which a Jewish journalist expressed her horror when her plastic surgeon explained that he could make her nose ”more beautiful, less Jewish and unattractive.” In response to this article, VNN users proceeded to post various pictures they could find online that featured Jewish women. A number of users also added information about these women, such as their profession and academic background.
VNN users targeted members from all corners of the YU community. The forum features photos of MTA and Central students, as well as Presidents Berman and Joel. Jews of all ages were subject to VNN’s mockery; there are countless photos of babies, couples and the elderly on the thread.
Students who discovered their pictures online were very distressed by what they saw. One Stern student featured on the forum commented that “it is very concerning that something like this is developing so quickly, especially in the United States.” Being featured on a neo-Nazi website made her feel “vulnerable and small.” As a proud Jewish American, she was disturbed that she was being “targeted” as a member of “a people and a religion.”
YU Campus Security issued a public statement on Aug. 30 in which they informed the student body that the “Security team has investigated and found no direct threat to the individuals appearing in the photos or to Yeshiva University.” Security urged students to “ignore the site and not seek it out or visit it since experts advise that individuals of this nature seek attention.”
Dr. Jeffrey Gurock, a SCW Professor and expert in American Jewish History and religion in America, maintains that he is not “overly concerned about what this means for Jews in the long run.” He emphasized his trust in university officials and advised that students and faculty be “vigilant” while they go about their “business in studying and learning.”
Dr. Jess Olson, an Associate Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University noted, “These comments on images of individuals in our community are sadly and unacceptably a well-worn motif historically in anti-Semitic rhetoric and iconography. It is an embarrassment to our country that we have arrived at a place that such ideas are flaunted with impunity.”
An FBI spokesman declined to issue a statement on the matter. As of press time, representatives for the NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney's office did not return The Commentator’s requests for comment on the matter.
This article has been updated to include a quote from Dr. Jess Olson after the 10th paragraph.