'Vile': With Georgia synagogue protests, antisemitism rears its head in the open

Gov. Brian Kemp, Sen. Raphael Warnock and others spoke out against antisemitism.

June 26, 2023, 4:21 PM

Georgia lawmakers denounced antisemitic protests seen in at least two Jewish places of worship, as well as antisemitic fliers in the state over the weekend.

“There is absolutely no place for this hate and antisemitism in our state,” said Gov. Brian Kemp in an online statement. “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."

The news comes just a few months after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that antisemitic incidents surged to historic levels in 2022. The U.S. saw a total of 3,697 incidents reported across the nation in 2022, the highest level of antisemitic activity since the ADL started keeping records in 1979, according to the organization.

Cobb County Police say 11 protesters targeted Chabad of Cobb, a synagogue and Jewish community center. In footage of the protest, captured by ABC affiliate WSB-TV, protesters could be seen waving Nazi flags in front of the community center and shouting hate speech.

Leaders of Chabad of Cobb say they are working closely with county officials and law enforcement to ensure the safety of their patrons. Cobb County Police officials say the protesters are believed to be part of a small affiliation from various states across the U.S.

Chabad Lubavitch of Cobb County outside Marietta, Ga.
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"Ultimately, we must remember that the most potent response to darkness is to increase in light," said Chabad of Cobb in a statement. "Let’s use this unfortunate incident to increase in acts of goodness and kindness, Jewish pride and greater Jewish engagement."

Temple Beth Israel, a synagogue in Macon, Georgia, was also the target of an antisemitic protest, with demonstrators allegedly shouting obscenities and hate speech.

Temple Beth Israel's Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar said the community will continue to "stand united against hatred and bigotry in all of its forms. We reject the poisonous ideologies which seeks to divide, and instead celebrate and embrace the timeless teachings of our faith."

Bahar continued, "Antisemitism is not a new phenomenon. It pains me greatly that today in Middle Georgia we have been forced to confront it twice," referencing the distribution of suspicious antisemitic packages and hate messages in the town of Warner Robins, Georgia.

Warner Robins Police confirmed the presence of such packages, which they say have similarly been seen in other cities across the U.S.

Local leaders, including Sen. Raphael Warnock and state Rep. Esther Panitch, spoke out against antisemitism in response to the protests.

Panitch, Georgia’s only Jewish legislator, who sponsored a bill to define antisemitism in state law, applauded community members who counterprotested against demonstrators.

"Once again, white supremacists have shown themselves to be the bottom feeding haters they have always been, not contributing to society but only seeking to destroy," she said in a tweet. "Protesting on the Sabbath at a synagogue and summer camp for Jewish children couldn’t be more vile."

“Yesterday we saw antisemitism on display in Macon, and now in metro Atlanta. This has got to stop,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock in a tweet.

"Praying for our Jewish community in Georgia and beyond. We must all raise our voices loudly against this vile hate."

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