Two neo-Nazi demonstrations in Georgia over the weekend sparked shock and outrage among local residents and drew widespread condemnation from state political leaders and Jewish organizations.
The incidents occurred in front of synagogues in the central Georgia city of Macon, as well as East Cobb, a suburban community north of Atlanta. Antisemitic flyers were also found in the city of Warner Robins, south of Macon.
The demonstrators, who chanted antisemitic slogans and displayed Nazi swastika flags, were affiliated with the neo-Nazi and white supremacist Goyim Defense League (GDL). The GDL has been responsible for series of similar provocations nationwide, including a large-scale antisemitic flyering campaign promoting conspiracy theories about Jews, over the past two years. Such flyers were distributed in the Atlanta suburbs of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody in February.
GDL leader Jon Minadeo II was arrested outside Temple Beth Israel in Macon on Friday night for shouting obscenities through a bullhorn, according to the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office. He was charged with disorderly conduct and public disturbance. Minadeo was subsequently released and he participated the following day at a similar demonstration at Chabad of Cobb.
“Antisemitism frequently lurks in the shadows, yet this past weekend in Georgia we observed its blatant and hateful manifestation at neo-Nazi demonstrations outside synagogues in Macon and East Cobb,” Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) CEO Sacha Roytman Dratwa stated. “It is critical that we uncover and refute the lies and conspiracy theories that motivate people to publicly display such menacing bigotry and hatred. We must confront this malevolence in our communities, and we are here to offer assistance in discovering and promoting effective ways to combat it.”
In a message to congregants on Friday, Temple Beth Israel Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar said, “This evening as we gathered together at Temple, we experienced one antisemitic incident and then learned of a second one in our community. Yet, in this moment of darkness, lets strive to highlight the light and warmth that Shabbat can provide as we come together to reaffirm the values that define us as a warm, welcoming, loving Jewish congregation.”
“We will be taking concrete steps necessary to explore enhancing security measures to ensure the safety of our members,” she added. “The safety and well-being of our congregation are of paramount importance just as we are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all who enter our doors. I encourage you to reach out to one another, to offer each other support as we stand in solidarity and navigate these challenging times together. Let us draw upon the strength from our sacred texts, the resilience that our ancestors have demonstrated and the love that bind us together as the sacred community.”
On Saturday, hundreds of Macon residents gathered on the steps of Temple Beth Israel to show solidarity with the Jewish community.
In a remarkable display of solidarity, residents of Macon, Georgia gathered the next day to stand alongside the Jewish community at Temple Beth Israel, countering the hateful presence of neo-Nazis with an overwhelming display of support!
— Combat Antisemitism Movement (@CombatASemitism) June 26, 2023
A Chabad of Cobb statement said, “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.”
“East Cobb has been a wonderful home to a flourishing Jewish community for many years,” it continued. “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.”
The Chabad statement concluded, “Ultimately, we must remember that the most potent response to darkness is to increase in light. Let’s use this unfortunate incident to increase in acts of goodness and kindness, Jewish pride, and greater Jewish engagement.”
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp tweeted on Sunday, “There is absolutely no place for this hate and antisemitism in our state. I share in the outrage over this shameful act and stand with Georgians everywhere in condemning it. We remain vigilant in the face of these disgusting acts of bigotry.”
There is absolutely no place for this hate and antisemitism in our state. I share in the outrage over this shameful act and stand with Georgians everywhere in condemning it.
We remain vigilant in the face of these disgusting acts of bigotry.https://t.co/QhylxE9rS8
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) June 25, 2023
Senator Jon Ossoff stated, “Georgia’s Jewish community will never be intimidated by antisemitism. Today, as symbols of genocide are paraded in front of synagogues, we continue to stand strong, proud, and unbowed. All Georgians are united in our rejection of bigotry and hate.”
Today, Sen. Ossoff issued the following statement following displays of swastikas outside synagogues in Macon and Cobb County and the distribution of anti-Semitic flyers in Warner Robins. pic.twitter.com/54TDQ3VARP
— Ossoff’s Office (@SenOssoff) June 25, 2023
Senator Raphael Warnock also denounced the incidents, tweeting, “Yesterday we saw antisemitism on display in Macon, and now in meto Atlanta. 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.”
Yesterday we saw antisemitism on display in Macon, and now in metro Atlanta. 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. https://t.co/n1LqcRcVQE
— Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (@SenatorWarnock) June 25, 2023