• Hundreds gather to discuss and combat antiSemitism

    By: Mike Petchenik

    Updated:

    SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. - One morning last month, Lauren Menis awoke to see news of another desecration at a Jewish Cemetery. 

    It was the latest in a series of attacks against Jews in the United States, including bomb threats to community centers and synagogues.

    “I said I’m done, I had enough,” she told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik.

    The mother, and former CNN producer, reached out to other parents and to leaders in the Jewish Community and organized a forum Thursday to discuss the problem of antiSemitism in Atlanta.

    “It’s amazing what’s happened,” she said. “We’ve organized a forum with over 150 different segments of Atlanta.”

    The forum, held at Sandy Springs synagogue, Temple Emanu-El, included members of different Jewish organizations and other religious groups, as well as law enforcement from across the Metro area.


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    “We’re really hoping that through this we can come up with ways to combat antiSemitism in our community,” said Menis.

    Georgia Bureau of Investigations director, Vernon Keenan, told Petchenik it was important for him to attend the forum.

    “We understand the special needs of the Jewish community,” he said. “We understand the hate that can be generated by persons who are antiSemitists.”

    Keenan said the GBI is in constant communication with local law enforcement and private security in the Jewish community.

    “You have to be ever vigilant, and the second thing is you can’t tolerate hate crimes, hate speech.
    You speak out against it,” Keenan said.

    Jared Powers, CEO of the Marcus Jewish Community Center, which received some of the threats, told the crowd he’s been heartened by support from across the community.

    “A local Muslim leader called me and offered to have members of his Mosque guard our gates at night even after his Mosque received threats,” he said.

    Even though one of the men arrested and accused of making the threats is Jewish himself, Menis said the issue is still there.

    “AntiSemitism is on the rise,” she said.

    The director of the Anti-Defamation Leagues’ Southeast Office says the threats aren’t just targeting synagogues and community centers.

    “We’re seeing it high schools and middle schools, where swastikas are being posted,” said Shelley Rose. “Racist graffiti, anti-gay slurs and anti-immigrant rhetoric is being spewed.”

    Rose said Georgia is one of just five states in the country without legislation to address hate crimes.
    She urged the audience to contact their lawmakers about changing this.

    “AntiSemitism is considered one of the oldest hatreds in the world,” said Dov Wilker, with the American Jewish Committee.

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