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Salem Health Officials Receive Anti-Semitic Messages In Response To COVID Decisions

SALEM (CBS) - Tensions are brewing in Salem after weeks of anti-Semitic comments directed at city leaders over their handling of the pandemic.

On Friday, Mayor Kim Driscoll said people have been targeting Board of Health leaders with traditional Jewish last names.

The chairman of the Salem Board of Health, Dr. Jeremy Schiller, is one of the many leaders on the receiving end of the anti-Semitic comments.

"Anti-Semitic language has been used equating the Holocaust to COVID mitigation measures, to accusing me of being a Nazi, to violating the Nuremberg trials with anti-Semitic images being sent to my house," said Schiller.

Schiller, who is a volunteer on the Salem Board of Health, said things reached a breaking point for him over the weekend when protestors stood in front of his home for hours.

"People have a right to be against things and have protests, to not agree with public health officials, but to elevate it to a level of hatred or offensive language is not OK," Schiller said.

Salem Police Chief Lucas Miller said his department is working alongside the Essex County District Attorney to see if any of these threats meet the threshold of criminal activity.

The Anti-Defamation League of New England came out strongly against the attacks.

"It's important for us to call out specifically what is happening in Salem, and that's anti-Semitism," said director Robert Trestan. "We need to be a community and a society where we don't resort to hatred, to stereotypes, to anti-Semitism to drive public policy or to intimidate public officials."

Dr. Schiller said he worries about the potential side effects of leaving this type of rhetoric unchecked.

"That's what bothers me the most. It's normalization. It's a causal way of referring to the Holocaust, as if what we are doing to keep people safe - by wanting people to get vaccinated to go to dinner or put on a mask - as if that equates to the extermination of a people. We should not tolerate that."

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