This past Friday, a group of approximately 15 individuals demonstrated with the “Goyim Defense League (GDL), a group known for its “paper terrorism,” harassment and intimidation tactics, scams and frauds, Goyim TV (a video platform that streams antisemitic content) outside of Temple Beth Israel in Macon. Its leader, antisemitic provocateur Jon Minadeo was arrested for disturbance of the peace and other minor charges. He was booked, paid his bond and was released just a few hours later.
The very next morning this same group returned to Temple Beth Israel and were removed from the premises two times. Following that, the GDL showed up at an East Cobb (North of Atlanta) Chabad building.
Last Saturday evening and early Sunday morning, the group distributed antisemitic flyers in East Cobb as well as Sandy Springs. Past flyer distributions include “blaming the Jewish community for mass illegal immigration, “ “Every Single Aspect of the Media is Jewish,” “Every Single Aspect of the Ukraine-Russia War is Jewish,” “COVID is a Jewish Invention,” along with different Holocaust denial documents. Their overarching goal is to cast aspersions on Jews, spread antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories.
Communities throughout the country have been subject to these “flyer drops” and we, here in Savannah, have had incidents over the past two years.
As you might imagine, our Security Director, Brett Butler received a number of reports from Savannahians who had seen posts on Facebook, Instagram and other sites. It is natural to react when you read posts about “antisemitic activities in Georgia” even though it was 165 miles away. We all feel vulnerable and when one community is threatened we all feel threatened. Our partners at the Anti-Defamation League had reached out to the area synagogues with a warning that there purportedly was going to be GDL activity in Georgia last weekend. The same internet that spews their antisemitic venom is also the source of where this group intends on demonstrating.
While the Goyim Defense League does not pose an immediate threat of violence to the Jewish community, they do make us feel more vulnerable. They carefully operate within the protections of the First Amendment (which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…..”).
And while they do spew abhorrent antisemitic rhetoric and have not been known to be dangerous (short of acting as provocateurs) they do present an indirect threat in that they inspire others who are violent. Those who seek to do harm to the Jewish community are often followers of their Goyim TV website which is filled with videos of their protests.
It was reported yesterday, that on the heels of the GDL activity, “draft legislation seeking to help law enforcement combat anti-Semitism has again come to the forefront in the Peach State.” (Recent legislation to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism in the hate crimes statute, passed in the GA House, but died in the Senate). Governor Kemp tweeted that the incidents were a “shameful act” and “there is absolutely no place for this hate and antisemitism in our state.”
And yesterday, there were packages of antisemitic materials (similar to those found in Warner Robbins, Macon, and Atlanta) found in Crisp County and Cordele, according to the Crisp County Sheriff’s Office.
We share this information with you not to scare you but for “Situational Awareness.” As one of our community members said to me, “We all need to up our game.”
The Savannah Jewish Federation is committed to providing the training and resources to our community to ensure that we all feel comfortable living our day-to-day lives. We beseech you to take advantage of our training classes which are offered at area synagogues and the JEA. There are close to 20 training opportunities already scheduled for the next ten months (and more to be added). They provide you with the background of security that may make all the difference in a life and death situation. You can access the class schedule at our Security Webpage. We encourage you, like those who made reports last week, to use the Incident Reporting Form which goes to us locally and nationally.
Through our commitment to community security, we work together to foster a culture of empowerment, collaboration, and vigilance that ensures our Jewish organizations (and community as a whole) are able to operate safely and securely.
Wishing you a safe and restful Shabbat