Elkhart Councilman Aaron Mishler is standing firm against hate speech

Oct. 25—ELKHART — In the aftermath of memes depicting him on social media, Elkhart City Councilman Aaron Mishler is taking a stand.

"I can take the attacks myself," Mishler said by telephone Thursday. "But when it branches into anti-Semitism and attacks on family and significant others, that's too far."

Mishler, who is Jewish and is currently seeking reelection for District 1, said he has not yet received any direct threats. However, at least eight memes depicting or referencing Mishler have appeared on social media posts and/or other places, including one which clearly refers to the gas chambers used by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, in which more than six million Jewish people, and many others, were murdered.

In response, Mishler has increased security at his home, including the installation of a security camera, out of concern for his 8-year-old daughter.

He has also contacted the FBI about the situation, which he explained dates back to February.

"I reached out and submitted the information via their online portal, including screenshots," Mishler added. "I am waiting for a response."

Mishler said the posts stopped for about two or three days, then started in again.

"I'm in office to do a job, and to talk about issues that are important to the city of Elkhart," he said. "That's what this election should be about, not anti-Semitic memes and hate speech."

An Elkhart native, Mishler is a full-time nurse who has volunteered overseas for disaster response efforts with Global Care Force.

"I've volunteered in Liberia, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Houston, North Carolina, Saipan, the Bahamas, Germany (for the Afghan airlift) and most recently in Ukraine," he said.

Mishler added that his family left the Poland/Belarus area in the late 1800s, but his family that remained there did perish in the Holocaust.

"We found records of their names in a Latvian Ghetto," he said "There were no survivors. My grandfather did serve in the Second World War, fighting against the Nazis in the 777th railroad in North Africa, Sicily and France."

In addition to his personal situation, Mishler expressed concern about what it means to the larger political discourse for the city.

"I think that this discourages people from wanting to be involved in the process," he added. "We want more civic engagement in the process, not whatever this is."

Carol McDowell is an Elkhart precinct committee person, and has been involved in running some 60 Republican campaigns in city politics. When she found out about the memes, she contacted several other candidates and told them that this needs to stop.

"When I see something that I don't feel is right, I don't have a problem calling somebody and trying to fix it," McDowell said by phone. "I called Aaron and I apologized to him. This is not how Republicans run campaigns. We want to make good change, not bad change. We need to work together to make Elkhart a better place."

Tonna Robinson, a member of Northern Indiana Atheists, has monitored the anti-Semitic attacks on Mishler.

"While I frequently disagree with Councilman Mishler's positions on policy, I am outraged that Aaron is so often subjected to blatant anti-Semitism," Robinson said by email. "I have become increasingly concerned for Councilman Mishler's safety as the anti-Semitic attacks against him escalate. The two most recent attack pages target Aaron's home and family.

"The same person who makes anti-Semitic attacks on Aaron also attacks NIA, accusing us of being 'secretly Jewish' and other nonsense. He threatened physical harm to my children, who were minors at the time, and made at least 2 Facebook pages in their names."

Mishler added that, as of Tuesday, the social media page which contained the memes was still up.

Steve Wilson is news editor for The Goshen News. You can reach him at steve.wilson@goshennews.com.