(JTA) – Two synagogues in Georgia were the target of near-identical anti-Semitic protests over the weekend, both allegedly organized by a neo-Nazi group that has risen to prominence in recent months.
On Friday, a group of about 10 to 15 protesters gathered outside Temple Beth Israel, a reform community in Macon, a city in central Georgia. They carried crude placards, hung an effigy on a post and uttered anti-Semitic malice before being broken up by police.
The next day, about 11 people waved swastika flags and displayed very similar anti-Semitic messages outside a Chabad center in Marietta, Georgia, about 100 miles north. The signs accused Jews of exercising control over elected officials or institutions such as the media and the Federal Reserve. Another sign allegedly referred to the lynching of Leo Frank in 1913a Jewish factory owner, which took place in Marietta.
Both protests appeared to be the work of the Goyim Defense League, a neo-Nazi group that has been spreading its messages and instigating other anti-Semitic incidents across the country. The leader of the organization, Jon Minadeo II, was arrested after the Macon protest and charged with disorderly conduct and public disorderand signs at the Marietta demonstration pointed to the group’s streaming channel.
Reportedly inspired by the group’s propaganda Shooting of two Jews in front of synagogues in Los Angeles earlier this year. Last year the group hung Anti-Semitic signs above a Los Angeles freeway and soon after, he projected the same message on a stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, the state in which the group is based.
According to an Anti-Defamation League audit, the group was responsible for nearly 500 incidents of anti-Semitic propaganda in 2022. Flyer with the branding of the group was found in Cobb County where Marietta lies, Days before the protest and some were also discovered last week in the town of Warner Robins, near Macon.
“By propagating anti-Semitic myths and conspiracy theories, by blaming Jews for everything from COVID-19 to perceived grievances surrounding immigration, pornography and abortion, the GDL hopes to turn Americans against the Jewish people,” it says an article opinion from the ADL Division in the Southeast US after the attacks.
Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar of Temple Beth Israel addressed the protest outside her synagogue in a sermon that evening. She said it was the first time, to her knowledge, that the 164-year-old community had experienced an anti-Semitic incident.
“The fact that there were protesters outside the temple on Friday night saying terrible things and doing terrible things tells me that there is tremendous anger in our community,” Bahar said in her sermon, parts of which were shared on social media Media.
The next day, like Macon community leaders attended an anti-hate rally in support of the temple, anti-Semitic protesters gathered outside Chabad of Cobb in Marietta. This group quickly attracted a large crowd of counter-protesters, some of whom began arguing with the neo-Nazis and shouting at them to go home. according to the Atlanta Jewish Times. The police also advanced and blocked the anti-Semitic demonstrators from entering the synagogue.
“East Cobb has been a wonderful home for a thriving Jewish community for many years. “These individuals do not represent the feelings of the citizens of East Cobb,” Cobb’s Chabad said said in a statement released on social media. The synagogue also noted that police “have identified these individuals as part of a small group traveling across the country to spread their hateful message.”
Although the protesters arrived during a Shabbat service, Rabbi Ephraim Silverman told the Atlanta Jewish Times that he “felt no fear from anyone at all” during the service. The next day, as scheduled, the Chabad held an open house for its synagogue.
Nationally elected officials from both parties have responded vigorously to the anti-Semitic incidents. Georgia Jewish Senator Jon Ossoff said in one opinion“The Jewish community in Georgia will never be intimidated by anti-Semitism.” Even today, as symbols of genocide have been displayed outside synagogues, we continue to stand strong, proud and unyielding.”
Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock tweeted“That has to stop. We pray for our Jewish community in Georgia and beyond. We all need to speak out loud against this vile hatred.” Governor Brian Kemp tweeted“There is absolutely no place for this hatred and anti-Semitism in our state.”
Also local officials at both sites made statements in support of the Jewish community tracking the incidents. Lisa Cupid, chair of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, said the anti-Semitic protests “are hurting our sense of community, although everyone should feel safe and welcome here.”
Marietta has a well-known history of anti-Semitism due to the lynching of Frank that was committed by a local mob after Frank is falsely accused of murdering a girl. Neo-Nazi groups have repeatedly referred to the lynching in their propaganda and, despite evidence to the contrary, have insisted that Frank was guilty of the allegations leveled against him.
earlier this year, Neo-Nazis also protested a Broadway revival of the musical Parade. It’s about Frank’s story. The show, which was praised for shedding new light on anti-Semitism in America, won a tony.