Uniting Against Rampant Local Antisemitism

Uniting Against Rampant Local Antisemitism

Local religious leaders organized a rally/town hall as community members have recently been affected by anti-Jewish protestors.

(From left) State Rep. Esther Panitch, Consul-General of Israel to the Southeast Anat Sultan-Dadon, Rabbi Daniel Dorsch, and Rabbi Mark Goldfeder // Photo by Mike Weinroth
(From left) State Rep. Esther Panitch, Consul-General of Israel to the Southeast Anat Sultan-Dadon, Rabbi Daniel Dorsch, and Rabbi Mark Goldfeder // Photo by Mike Weinroth

On June 24, a group of neo-Nazi demonstrators who called themselves members of the Goyim Defense League stood on the sidewalk in front of an Orthodox synagogue, Chabad of Cobb on Lower Roswell Road, with bright red flags emblazoned with the Nazi swastika. The group, purportedly from Florida, has been demonstrating in cities having Jewish communities. They had been in Macon prior to coming to Cobb County.

Following this demonstration, news spread quickly to concerned members of two other nearby Jewish congregations as well as police, county officials, neighbors, and friends in Cobb County.

In very short order the Rev. Kristin Lee, senior pastor of East Cobb United Methodist Church, and Mechel McKinley-Hoffman, a member of Marietta First United Methodist Church, had a conversation about the demonstration and immediately began organizing another kind of demonstration. Their next step was reaching out to Rabbi Daniel Dorsch, senior rabbi of Congregation Etz Chaim, to see how they could support the Jewish community. He said this was the first time in seven years that he did not have to organize a response to an antisemitic incident. The result was an event scheduled for June 28 at East Cobb UMC.

It is apparent that this church is not a mega-church with a congregational membership in the thousands. All 300 seats were filled with members and visitors, as well as attendees standing on the sides of the pews and in the back of the sanctuary. Small but mighty came immediately to mind. There were greeters at the doors passing out copies of the evening’s program. There was a genuine feeling of warmth and welcome.

The program, entitled “A Time of Prayer and Action,” was introduced by McKinley-Hoffman. As the Rev. Lee came to the dais, she quipped that “this crowd doesn’t look like our turn out of Sunday morning regulars.” Her first remark lightened the mood. “There is always a time for personal and group prayer.

More than 300 community members of various faith groups attended the “A Time of Prayer and Action” meeting // Photo by Mike Weinroth

Everyone in the sanctuary, regardless of denomination, has that right and opportunity. The demonstrators wanted to divide the community, but their actions clearly united the residents of Cobb County.”

Rabbi Dorsch also read a message from Rabbi Ephraim Silverman, Rabbi of Chabad of Cobb, “that we will not allow this small group to taint the way we see our neighbors.”

A larger piece of the program was focused on action, and to that end, Cobb Faith Communities have gone on record to support the Georgia Legislature to pass House Bill 30. This bill would officially identify what antisemitism is. The definition is aligned with that of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. “A Time of Prayer and Action” is for Georgia to join with the other 46 states in the U.S. that have adopted this specific definition.

State Reps. Esther Panitch of Sandy Springs (the only Jewish member of the Georgia House of Representatives), and John Carson of the 46th district of Cobb County, are doggedly determined that this bill will pass in the next session of the Georgia Legislature. And should it fail, says representative Carson, “we will return the following year until this legislation is finally passed.”

The Cobb County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution condemning the June 24 Goyim Defense League protest. Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson read the resolution and stated that “we want our community to feel loved and empowered.” Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick and Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Eytan Davidson also made remarks. Consul-General of Israel to the Southeast Anat Sultan-Dadon was recognized.

Leaving the gathering, Rabbi Dorsch said, “I was left bursting with appreciation that this event was largely organized by the non-Jewish community. I share in the overwhelming gratitude of my colleagues locally that we were included in helping to craft and participate in this outstanding program. Pirkei Avot teaches that ‘in a place where there are no worthy persons, one should strive to be a worthy person.’ Never doubt the strength of a few, brave individuals to bring light to the world.”

read more: