Neo-Nazis target two Georgia synagogues
JTA- Two Georgia synagogues were targeted by nearly identical antisemitic protests over the weekend, both allegedly organised by a neo-Nazi group that has gained notoriety in recent months.
On Friday, 23 June, a group of about 10 to 15 protesters gathered outside Temple Beth Israel, a Reform congregation in Macon, a city in central Georgia. They carried crude signs, hung an effigy from a post, and spouted antisemitic vitriol before being broken up by police.
The next day, about 11 people waved swastika flags and displayed very similar antisemitic messages outside a Chabad centre in Marietta, Georgia, about 100 miles (160km) to the north. The signs blamed Jews for wielding control over elected officials or institutions, such as the media and the Federal Reserve. Another sign reportedly referenced the 1913 lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory owner, which took place in Marietta.
Both protests appeared to be the work of the Goyim Defense League (GDL), a neo-Nazi group that has spread its messaging and instigated other antisemitic incidents around the country. The organisation’s leader, Jon Minadeo II, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and public disturbance following the protest in Macon, and signs at the Marietta demonstration referenced the group’s streaming channel.
The group’s propaganda reportedly inspired shootings of two Jews outside synagogues in Los Angeles earlier this year. Last year, the group hung antisemitic signs over a Los Angeles freeway and, soon afterward, projected the same message onto a stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, the state where the group is based.
According to an audit by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the group was responsible for nearly 500 incidents of antisemitic propaganda in 2022. Flyers bearing the group’s hallmarks had been found in Cobb County, where Marietta is located, days before the protest, and some were also discovered last week in the town of Warner Robins, near Macon.
“By spreading antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories, blaming Jews for everything from the COVID-19 pandemic to perceived grievances about immigration, pornography, and abortion, GDL hopes to turn Americans against the Jewish people,” read a statement from the ADL’s chapter in the southeastern United States following the attacks.
“The fact that there were protesters outside the temple on Friday night, saying horrific things, doing horrific things, tells me that there’s a tremendous amount of anger in our community,” Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar of Temple Beth Israel said in a sermon outside her synagogue that evening.
The next day, as Macon community leaders attended an anti-hate rally in support of the temple, antisemitic protesters gathered outside Chabad of Cobb in Marietta. That group quickly attracted a large crowd of counter protesters, some of whom began arguing with the neo-Nazis and yelling at them to go home, according to the Atlanta Jewish Times. Law enforcement also showed up to block the antisemitic protesters’ access to the synagogue.
“East Cobb has been a wonderful home to a flourishing Jewish community for many years. These individuals don’t represent the sentiments of the citizens of East Cobb,” said Chabad of Cobb.
Although the protesters arrived during a Shabbat service, Rabbi Ephraim Silverman told the Atlanta Jewish Times that he “didn’t sense any fear” during the service. The next day, Chabad held an open house for its synagogue as previously scheduled.
State-wide elected officials from both parties have responded forcefully to the antisemitic incidents. Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff, who is Jewish, said in a statement, “Georgia’s Jewish community will never be intimidated by antisemitism. Today, as symbols of genocide were paraded in front of synagogues, we continue to stand strong, proud, and unbowed.”
Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock tweeted, “This has got to stop. Praying for our Jewish community in Georgia and beyond. We must all raise our voices loudly against this vile hate.” Governor Brian Kemp tweeted, “There’s absolutely no place for this hate and antisemitism in our state.”