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Why this Chabad rabbi wants to thank the antisemites on his lawn

A hate group shouted epithets at people leaving Chabad of South Orlando

The second time the antisemitic protesters showed up at the entrance of the Chabad of South Orlando, they brought a prop. So, in addition to flashing Hitler salutes and waving hateful signs, according to Rabbi Yosef Konikov, “they were able to say,  ‘Look, how many Jews can we fit into this barbecue grill?’”

Video posted on social media shows Jon Minadeo, who founded an antisemitic group called the Goyim Defense League, bellowing slurs and insults at Jewish people leaving the Chabad campus last Friday.

Konikov, director of the Chabad center, said a similar group of protesters had assembled outside the campus about a year ago, and had also targeted the Orlando Jewish Community Center around the same time. 

Minadeo moved his group to Florida from northern California in December. The group has over the past several years littered a variety of neighborhoods across the U.S. with antisemitic propaganda flyers. 

A man charged with shooting two Jewish men as they left morning services in an Orthodox area of Los Angeles on consecutive days last week attached a photo of a Goyim Defense League flyer in an email to classmates about two months before the attack.

Rabbi Konikov derided the group as “meshugaim defense league,” using a Yiddish word for “crazy.” He expressed frustration that police officers parked a few hundred feet away did not leave their cars even as the group blocked the driveway, in deference to the protesters’ rights to free speech. 

“There’s got to be a way to not allow people to harass people like that,” he said, adding, “We have kids here, and they go up to the kids and they try to scare the kids. It’s very scary for people, and a lot of people are traumatized.”

At the same time, the rabbi said he was moved by the response of people, including non-Jews, who called to express their disgust at the rally and their support for Chabad.

“What they’re accomplishing is actually the opposite of what they think they’re accomplishing,” Konikov said of the group. “It only strengthens us, strengthens the Jewish resolve, and the Jewish people around the world get more support from the goyim. So if they’re listening: Thanks.” 

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