Above Time Coffee Roasters LLC, a Bloomington-based coffee company run by controversial Schooner Creek Farm co-owner Sarah Dye, is facing criticism for its alleged use of neo-Nazi imagery and language.
After Dye announced the launch of Above Time on Instagram and posted the company’s first tweet on May 9, commentators began to question the company’s logo, language and policies. Dye did not respond to IDS’s request for comment.
Dye has previously been accused of having ties to the now-defunct white supremacist group Identity Evropa and has admitted to posting white supremacist ideology in an online chat room. Identity Evropa, renamed the American Identity Movement before it dissolved in November 2020, reportedly aims to offer a less obvious version of white supremacy that appeals to younger Americans, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
When the group was active, Dye was reportedly well connected with leaders, recruiters, and extremists like Nolan Brewer, who pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime charge on May 21, 2019, for vandalizing and bringing homemade destructive weapons to a synagogue of Indianapolis with the intention of burning it.
Dye was also the center of a controversy surrounding Bloomington Farmer’s Market in 2019. After she was removed from Nashville Farmer’s Market by belonging to the Evropa Identityprotests started at Bloomington Market to remove it, and the market ended up being closed for two weeks for fear of violence.
The company’s name, Above Time, was accused of referring to the neo-Nazi book “The Lightning and the Sun”, which is dedicated to Adolf Hitler “as a tribute to unfailing love and loyalty”. The company’s logo shows four coffee beans forming a cross, each with a jagged line and a darkened section to form an “x”.
The cross in the middle of the icon is described by Günther Jikeli, director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism, as iconography between a swastika and an Iron Cross, which is a black “x” that has roots in Nazi Germany and Prussia. Both are commonly used by neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups in the US.
Jikeli also said there was a similarity between the jagged lines inside the coffee beans in the logo and half of the SS screws, which resemble an “s” or lightning and are another common symbol of white supremacy. These three comparisons have been echoed by Internet commentators.
Mark Roseman, a historian of modern Europe and professor of Jewish and Germanic studies, said he agreed with Jikeli’s interpretation. This kind of imagery is reminiscent of post-World War II efforts to conjure up Nazi images without reproducing them, Roseman said.
“Like a lot of neo-Nazi content on the web, it’s both in your face but also shy, ready to go into hiding if accused,” Roseman said. “But that doesn’t mean that a keen observer can be in any doubt about what’s going on here.”
Above Time’s slogan, “for our people, for our people,” alarms sounded for experts like Jikeli and Roseman, commentators and the Jewish community.
This kind of harmful language, Roseman said, suggests that there are those who are not “our people.” Who is not welcome is not explained explicitly, but Roseman says it has become clear that Jews are among those excluded because of the company’s policies regarding kosher food.
In an Instagram post made on June 13, Above Time said that its coffee will not be kosher certified. Kosher products are prepared according to traditional Jewish dietary restrictions, and a kosher-certified product promises the consumer that these considerations were followed throughout the preparation process, according to Rabbi Sue Silberberg, executive director of the Helene G. Simon Hillel from IU.
Keeping kosher is technically required in the Torah, the Jewish holy book. However, the Jewish people follow him for many reasons, said Silberberg.
“A lot of people today keep it because it’s a way of maintaining a Jewish home,” said Silberberg. “It’s a way to bring Judaism into your life.”
Above Time claims in the same post that kosher-certified foods cost more, which Silberberg says is partially false. The cost of ensuring that an item is kosher is generally considered part of the cost of production; however, actual supervision and certification may cost a small fee.
Regardless, coffee beans are automatically kosher, according to Silberberg.
“I think she’s making an effort to make an anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish statement,” said Silberberg. “It’s not about cost. It wouldn’t cost you more money.
The Above Time post quotes The Kosher Question website regarding the extra cost of Kosher food. However, the claims on the website, as well as the app made by the same company, have been proven to be false.
The company claims that its customers, which it calls “our people,” do not need kosher-certified products and have not asked for them.
Jikeli describes this type of language as a common strategy by white supremacists and neo-Nazis to signify that Jews are not welcome in an establishment. That language will be understood by anti-Semites, but it remains implicit enough to say that is not the intention, Jikeli said.
This controversy comes during a difficult year for Bloomington’s Jewish community. Throughout December, several swastikas were seen painted across the city. In February, an anti-Semitic post surfaced on the Greek Rank social media site.
Events like these remind people that hatred and bigotry are still present in the Bloomington community, according to Silberberg. She is also grateful, however, for the outpouring of support following these events.
“It makes people sad, scared, angry, hurt,” said Silberberg. “But I would say the upside is how many people have come forward to support our community this year.”
Bloomington locals rallied against Above Time’s online presence. The company’s first tweet has 133 responses; almost all comment on the images behind the company’s branding or mock white supremacy.
An Indiana-based company took action in response to the launch of Above Time. The Indianapolis Coffee Guide, a coffee blog dedicated to highlighting Indianapolis coffee shops, has partnered with Gravesco Pottery to create an “Anti Fascist Coffee Club” mug. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and a corresponding donation will be made to the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council.
These donations help, but Silberberg said the most important way to fight bigotry is to speak out against it and deny its support.
“We also have the right and responsibility,” said Silberberg, “to think about where we want to spend our money and who we want to spend it on.”