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Neo-Nazis terrorize Jewish community by brandishing swastika flags outside Georgia synagogue

‘This was the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life,’ said one member of the synagogue

Andrea Blanco
Sunday 25 June 2023 19:49 BST
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A neo-Nazi group gathered outside a synagogue in Georgia and brandished swastikas during its Shabbat service on Saturday.

Shocking pictures and videos showed around a dozen people waving the hate symbols outside the Chabad of Cobb synagogue in East Cobb, the non-profit Stop Antisemitism reported.

Jon Minadeo II, leader of the so-called Goyim Defense League, was arrested for disorderly conduct and public disturbance the day before at a synagogue in Macon, Georgia, local station WMAZ reported.

Members of Chabad of Cobb told WMAZ that the neo-Nazis were out there for a few hours. Videos posted online showed the group holding swastika flags and signs that read: “Every Single Aspect of Abortion is Jewish” as local residents could be heard shouting at them to “go home”.

Officers from the Cobb Police Department responded to the scene but did not dispel the rally. Freedom of speech, even hate speech, is generally protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution — although true threats and harassment are not. Officers stood between the two groups.

Law enforcement has not issued any public statements addressing the incident on Saturday but Chabad of Cobb’s leaders said that the police department is working with them to ensure the safety of everyone at the synagogue.

“This was the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Stewart Levy, who attends Chabad of Cobb, told WMAZ.

“I am shocked, absolutely shocked to see this here. When I see the amount of ignorance out there and some of the truths that they are promoting, it is just frightening the level of inaccurate knowledge that there is.”

Jennifer Caron Derrick, who does not attend the synagogue but lives in East Cobb, said she didn’t believe any of the neo-Nazis were local residents.

“It’s sad to see, although I’m fairly certain [their] people aren’t from our local community,” Ms Caron Derrick told The Independent.

“I just don’t understand the hate and never will.”

Ms Caron Derrick said East Cobb residents have planned a peaceful gathering for Monday at 5pm EDT in support of the Jewish community. Individuals who wish to attend the protest at Chabad of Cobb are encouraged to bring signs featuring messages of love and respect, Ms Caron Derrick said.

Chabad of Cobb issued a statement decrying the neo-Nazi rally and thanked members of the community for stepping up against hate.

The synagogue noted that East Cobb had been a “wonderful home to a flourishing Jewish community for many years” and the antisemitic protest did not represent the community’s sentiment.

Shocking pictures and videos showed neo-Nazis with swastikas outside the Chabad of Cobb synagogue on Friday (WMAZ)

“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,” the statement read.

“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.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes the Goyim Defense League as “a small network of virulently antisemitic provocateurs led by Jon Minadeo II,” with the “overarching goal is to cast aspersions on Jews and spread antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories”.

Minadeo was released on bond following his Friday arrest. It is unclear whether any arrests were made on Saturday. The Independent has reached out to the East Cobb Police Department for comment.

Georgia ranked fourth in US states experiencing the highest number of antisemitic incidents with 44 recorded in 2022, according to ADL.

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