Demonstrations by a small group of neo-Nazis outside Georgia shuls on Shabbos have unleashed a torrent of outrage, good deeds, and support around the state and nation in response.
By Faygie Levy Holt and Yaakov Ort – Chabad.org
Demonstrations by a small group of neo-Nazis outside Georgia synagogues on Shabbat have unleashed a torrent of outrage, good deeds, and support around the state and nation in response.
On Shabbat afternoon, as people were arriving for afternoon services at Chabad-Lubavitch of Cobb County, in Marietta. Ga., they were confronted by 12 members of an antisemitic hate group brandishing antisemitic posters and swastika flags outside the synagogue.
“They were standing in front as I was walking up to the shul,” Rabbi Ephraim Silverman told Chabad.org. “Obviously, I was not very happy to see them, but I am aware that their tactic is to provoke and get a response. Instead, I nodded to the police who were there and thanked them for their support. I went inside, where we had a beautiful Minchah prayer service and a larger-than-usual crowd for Havdalah at the close of Shabbat.”
Outside the building, meanwhile, as news of the hate group’s arrival spread through the community, peaceful but indignant counter-protests were held and calls for positive but firm responses in the face of growing antisemitism.
“Ironically, this hateful group has shown us how many friends and how much support we have in the Jewish and non-Jewish community here in East Cobb,” said the rabbi. “The outpouring of support from clergy and individuals of all walks of life has been unbelievable.”
“People need to know that 99% of the population totally abhors any expression of hate,” the rabbi continued. “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 extremely appreciative of the outpouring of support and concern from all segments of the community,” Silverman added. “We have been in communication with Cobb County officials, who have identified these individuals as part of a small group that travels around the country in order to spread their hateful message. 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.”
‘An Opportunity to Increase Positive Action’
Drawing on the teachings of the Rebbe, Silverman said people should see this as an “opportunity to increase positive efforts, to get more engaged with their Judaism.”
“The best response to an act like this,” the rabbi continued, “is to increase Jewish pride and increase acts of kindness and goodness. 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. We are already seeing this play out in the community as a number of people who are not usually here came to the synagogue on Sunday morning to put on tefillin.”
The protest in front of the Chabad of Cobb County was the second incident from the same group over the weekend after they had demonstrated outside a synagogue in Macon, about a 90-minute car ride away.
Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock condemned the antisemitic hate. “I share in the outrage over this shameful act and stand with Georgians everywhere in condemning it,’ said Kemp. “We remain vigilant in the face of these disgusting acts of bigotry.”
“Yesterday we saw antisemitism on display in Macon, and now in metro Atlanta,” wrote Warnock. “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.”
Chabad of East Cobb is launching its summer camp tomorrow and Silverman said that as a result of the incident on Shabbat, staff at the camp will be doubling down to ensure that each child “feels the warmth of Judaism, feels proud to be Jewish and has an amazing, positive Jewish experience that will make them excited about their Jewish identity.”
Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org.