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Jewish leaders and Assemblyman Tyler Diep to discuss anti-Semitism in wake of campaign mailers that sparked controversy

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State Assemblyman Tyler Diep (R-Westminster) will meet with Jewish leaders from Orange and Los Angeles counties on Friday to discuss how some of Diep’s mailers distributed during November’s election campaign offended members of the Jewish community.
(Courtesy of Tyler Diep)

Jewish leaders from Orange and Los Angeles counties will meet Friday with state Assemblyman Tyler Diep (R-Westminster) to discuss how some of Diep’s mailers distributed during the November election campaign offended members of the Jewish community.

Diep represents the 72nd Assembly District, which covers Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Garden Grove, Westminster and the unincorporated areas of Midway City and Rossmoor. The private meeting will be at his Huntington Beach office.

Diep’s chief of staff, Peter Kim, denied the Daily Pilot’s requests to attend.

Peter Levi, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, also said the meeting would be private, saying such topics are “sensitive issues.”

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Diep said in a statement Wednesday that he looks forward to listening to the Jewish leaders’ concerns and to “clear any misunderstandings.”

“I want to be respectful and share my thoughts with the leaders first,” he said. “However, I want to reinforce my commitment in respecting all cultures and beliefs, and I unequivocally denounce any form of prejudice or racism, including anti-Semitism.”

Levi said in an interview Wednesday that he hopes the meeting will be an “open and free conversation” that will help forge a relationship going forward and assist with any issues of hate, bigotry or discrimination.

In the final campaign push before his election Nov. 6, Diep came under fire from some Jewish community members who contended his campaign used anti-Semitic themes to attack his Democratic opponent, Josh Lowenthal.

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Assembly candidate Tyler Diep’s campaign is accused of using anti-Semitic images to attack opponent Josh Lowenthal »

Some of Diep’s mailers depicted Lowenthal — who is Jewish — with what some said was an enlarged nose and clutching hundred-dollar bills. The mailers also showed a hospital patient in the background with her eyes closed and one hand against her head. The fliers read, “Businessman Josh Lowenthal recklessly cut corners, putting customers and employees at risk just so he could make a quick buck.”

Anti-Semitic caricatures of Jewish people often include characteristics such as big noses and being greedy.

Diep’s campaign denied that it enlarged Lowenthal’s nose in the flier picture and provided a side-by-side comparison of the original photo. His campaign pointed out that Diep is Vietnamese and said he is “highly sensitive to attempts at exploiting stereotypes to score political points.”

The mailers touched nerves that were already raw in the wake of a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in October in which 11 people died — the deadliest attack on Jewish people in U.S. history.

Eight Jewish leaders sent a letter to Diep on April 15 calling on him to renounce racism and anti-Semitism, acknowledge pain caused by using anti-Semitic tropes and organize a meeting about forms of hate communication.

“Too often, incidents of anti-Semitism or politicians trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes are condemned in the moment and then passed over without any lasting attempt to prevent their reemergence in the future,” according to the letter.

“We would like you to consider how inappropriate your hateful literature and tactics were,” the letter reads. “You have never acknowledged your insult to local Jewish community members and other community members who stand up against hate, whom you now represent in Sacramento.”

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The letter says the leaders are “eager to participate in a positive outcome” and work with Diep to turn “hateful actions into a learning moment for our local community and great state.”

Friday’s meeting comes on the heels of a recent series of anti-Semitic incidents in Orange County.

In March, social media images showed Newport-Mesa Unified School District students at a weekend party saluting a swastika assembled from red plastic cups. That incident led to community forums on the subject and a unity rally and vigil in Costa Mesa, and 89-year-old Eva Schloss, whose father, brother and stepsister Anne Frank died in the Holocaust, met at Newport Harbor High School with a group of students involved in the off-campus party.

Full coverage of the scandal surrounding the student party where Nazi symbols were displayed and put on social media »

A week after the party, Newport Harbor High was vandalized by at least 10 Nazi propaganda fliers, some bearing swastikas. A 22-year-old Fullerton woman was charged with vandalism in May in connection with the posters.

The party also prompted Newport-Mesa Unified to create a Human Relations Task Force to promote “a greater level of cultural understanding and acceptance.”

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