Last week, residents of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody awoke to a chilling sight—antisemitic flyers had been strewn across driveways, lawns, and sidewalks. It is clearly no accident that these flyers were dropped in two Atlanta suburbs with a large Jewish population. Luckily, the revolting flyers seem to be having the opposite of their intended affect; many people in the Jewish community say that their non-Jewish neighbors have been standing up and speaking out.
Georgia Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, of Stone Mountain, who is not Jewish, made an impassioned, unscheduled speech on the floor on Monday. “No one, not one Georgian, should ever wake up to hate. And as many of you well know, this isn’t the first time Jewish Georgians have been targeted.” She detailed not only historical incidents of antisemitism in Atlanta, but the well-documented rise of attacks against Jews in the last several years.
Her remarks were also hopeful and comforting for many who heard them. She said that, as a Black woman, she stands in solidarity with the Jewish community. “I understand what it feels like to be targeted on the basis of your identity.” She said she is proud that the Hate Crimes Law was passed in Georgia last year. You can click here to watch her remarks in full; they begin at 1:15:46.
Federation and its community partners—including the ADL, Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) are working with law enforcement to monitor the situation in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. Federation is home to Atlanta’s Secure Community Network (SCN) program, which works around the clock to keep the entire Jewish community of Atlanta safe. Atlanta’s synagogues, day schools, nonprofit organizations, and more are all protected by SCN.
Neil Rabinovitz, Atlanta’s Director of Community Security, says “We, along with SCN’s cadre of intelligence analysts, work behind the scenes on a daily basis with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners in a coordinated effort to share information and intelligence, and monitor community events in order to keep our community safe.”
He also wants to remind Atlantans that Federation and SCN have set up an anonymous threat-reporting system. “We encourage every member of our community to remain vigilant and to report anything suspicious or concerning, no matter how small, to us through Federation’s online incident reporting system.”
But many people are still wondering what they can do to combat antisemitism before violence or threats occur. In December, the ADL reported that the FBI’s hate crime data showed at least 238 hate crime incidents in Georgia in 2021—an increase from 195 incidents in 2020, and the highest number of incidents in over two decades.
On Wednesday, the National Council for Jewish Women hosted a panel called Antisemitism: Where Do We Go from Here? at The Temple. Moderated by Julie Katz, the Assistant Director of AJC in Atlanta, the panel featured Jeremy Lichtig, Campus Director for Hillel University of Georgia (UGA), and Stephanie Guiloff, the Director of Internal Communications and Advocacy for AJC in Washington, D.C.
Stephanie shared an important key to framing antisemitism, “We can’t let hatred against our community define us; we have to let pride define us.” She also revealed a statistic from an AJC study that was released just yesterday: 9 in 10 Americans—Jewish and non-Jewish—believe that antisemitism is a problem for everyone. This suggests that despite recent acts of violence and intimidation, the vast majority of Americans are not prejudiced against Jewish people.
Jeremy recounted the swift response to an incident in the fall, when an antisemitic message was broadcast against the side of a stadium in Jacksonville, Florida following the UGA/University of Florida football game. He said that the response from both universities, the cities of Athens and Jacksonville, student government leaders, and more was swift, and reflected the seriousness of the event. Months later, they are still actively working with DEI groups, students, and faculty to address what happened and prevent future incidents. Recently, fifteen of UGA’s student athletes attended a Shabbat dinner hosted by Hillel, where Jeremy says, “the Band-Aid was ripped off,” and vital conversations began.
All three of the panelists urged attendants to contact their Georgia state legislators and tell them to support House Bill 30, which asks the State of Georgia to recognize the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. AJC and the ADL both support the bill, which would make it easier for anti-Jewish acts to be prosecuted as hate crimes in Georgia.
Senator Butler also mentioned the bill in her speech and urged her colleagues to pass it. “I hope you will support us in our endeavor to ensure Georgia is a place where hate against any community is not only untolerated [sic], but staunchly rejected,” she said. “Our communities stand together in the tradition of love, and it is up to each of us to demonstrate that love for one another through action in the face of injustice.”
While antisemitic acts in our community are sobering, they do not define Jewish Atlanta—not to its members, or to its allies. If nothing else, this week showed us that Jewish Atlantans are not alone in our fight to end hatred.