In an apparent escalation from spreading their flyers on neighborhood driveways, right-wing groups including the Goyim Defense League are now displaying their hatred in front of synagogues.
On a warm Shabbat afternoon, June 24, a handful of extremists carrying swastika flags and hateful messages against Jews, paraded in front of Chabad of Cobb on Lower Roswell Road. Cobb County Police stood between the hate mongers and the synagogue where congregants were enjoying afternoon Shabbat services.
The night before, apparently the same group of extremists protested outside Temple Beth Israel in downtown Macon, even using a bullhorn. The next day, hundreds of people congregated outside the Temple to stand against antisemitism.
In Cobb County, those protesting the antisemitic extremists didn’t wait. They gathered across the street during the “rally” of extremists, taking photographs and videos and yelling at the handful of right-wingers standing in front of Chabad of Cobb. From those videos, it appeared that the extremists barely outnumbered the Cobb police who stood between them and the building and were far outnumbered by those protesting the flags displaying swastikas and other propaganda.
Those shouting at the neo-Nazi and right-wing extremists were heard screaming, “go home, Nazi trash,” as well as taunting and cursing the antisemites.
The message from Chabad of Cobb Rabbi Ephraim Silverman was more temperate. “We are extremely appreciative and thankful for the outpouring of support and concern from all segments of the community. We have been in communication with Cobb County officials, who have identified these individuals as part of a small group that travel around the country in order to spread their hateful message. Their goal is to provoke the Jewish community into helping them spread their message via social media posts etc.”
He told the AJT that he didn’t know who actually called the Cobb County police, but he said he “did not sense any fear at all from anyone” at the service.
He added that “East Cobb has been a wonderful home to a flourishing Jewish community for many years. These individuals do not represent the sentiments of the citizens of East Cobb. We are working closely with Cobb County officials and the Police Department to ensure the security and safety of our campus. There is no threat whatsoever at this time.”
Indeed, the next day, Chabad of Cobb held an open house for the families of its Camp Gan Izzy which was scheduled to start Monday, June 26. One camp employee said she was not nervous about going to the synagogue, “just disappointed that antisemitism is still so present in the world we live in today.”
And the protests in front of Chabad of Cobb on Saturday were not the only examples of antisemitism in the Atlanta area or the state this past weekend. Residents of Sandy Springs found antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ flyers in their driveways over the weekend, an occurrence that has repeated both in Sandy Springs and other neighborhoods around the metro area.
In a message to his members, Congregation Etz Chaim Rabbi Daniel Dorsch acknowledged that many who had contacted him “were unsettled by the sight of Neo-Nazis in front of a synagogue….This gathering deliberately took place in front of a synagogue with the intent to intimidate Jews.”
He assured his congregants that the Anti-Defamation League and the Secure Community Network, which is the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America, are monitoring antisemitic acts nationally. “We routinely receive updates about potential antisemitic activities in the greater community as we did in this situation,” confirming reports in some media that Jewish institutions in Atlanta had been forewarned about possible antisemitic actions this weekend.
Local rabbis were not the only ones who responded to the latest examples of antisemitism. Both Democratic and Republican local and state leaders condemned the antisemitic acts. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp stated that “there is absolutely no place for this hate and antisemitism in our state. I share in the outrage over this shameful act.”
Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock tweeted, “This has got to stop. We must all raise our voices loudly against this vile hate.” Fellow Sen. Jonathan Ossoff stated that “Georgia’s Jewish community will never be intimidated by anti-Semitism…All Georgians are united in our rejection of bigotry and hate.”
Both Jews and non-Jews flooded social media platforms with messages of support for the Jewish community and condemnations of the antisemitism. One person expressed how “sorry” she was, adding that “they are getting louder and bolder.”
But not everyone agrees on the response to the antisemitic extremists. “I think it is better that they don’t give [stet] a lot of press coverage. It hurts their cause to be ignored.”
Similarly, in her message criticizing the extremists, Georgia Rep. Esther Panitch urged, “Please do not engage with these unhinged maniacs as they are obviously unwell.”
Many complained that the police didn’t stop those expressing hatred in front of the East Cobb synagogue. But Panitch responded, “To those who are upset the police aren’t doing anything, I would say, ‘I’m just as frustrated as everyone else who feels like these white supremacists/Nazis appear to be getting away with their vile speech. But that speech alone is protected under the First Amendment.’”
Cheryl Feingold Dorchinsky, co-administrator of online group Jewish Moms of Atlanta and executive director of the Atlanta Israel Coalition, has another strategy, refusing to name the group most associated with the frequent flyers and recent rallies. “The founder of this fringe extremist group is a failed actor who is desperate for money and attention. He fled California for Florida, but they tightened the laws there and made it clear that he and his fellow hateful Nazis were not welcome. We cannot let these bigots continue bringing their hate to Georgia. We must stand up and make it clear that their message of intolerance and bigotry has no place in our state.”
- Jan Jaben-Eilon
- Goyim Defense League
- chabad of cobb
- Temple Beth Israel
- right-wing extremists
- Rabbi Ephraim Silverman
- Camp Gan Izzy
- Sandy Springs Wyndham Hills n
- anti-LGBTQ flyers
- congregation etz chaim
- Rabbi Daniel Dorsch
- Anti-Defamation League
- Secure Community Network
- Gov. Brian Kemp
- Esther Panitch