Neo-Nazi group sets up across from Temple Emanu-El
Photo: Stock

During Shabbat worship, group holds up antisemitic sign, Nazi flag

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Editor’s note: The Texas Jewish Post has chosen not to publish photos of the five members of the antisemitic extremist group that set up across Hillcrest Avenue from Temple Emanu-El on Saturday, Nov. 25, during Shabbat morning services. This group has monetized the mention of their name and photos in print and social media. To learn more about antisemitic extremist groups that are active in Texas, see the sidebar on p.5.

Since the Hamas terrorists’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, antisemitism has spiked in the United States and around the world. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has tracked antisemitic incidents, reports that in the past seven weeks, antisemitic incidents have increased by more than 300%, according to its website.

Antisemitic incidents have increased in North Texas as well. The ADL Texoma office, which covers North Texas and Oklahoma, has been fielding more calls than usual, as has the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas (JFGD) Community Security Department.

The most recent occurred Saturday morning, Nov. 25, across Hillcrest Avenue from Temple Emanu-El. Five members of an extremist antisemitic organization known to law enforcement and the ADL set up across the street from the synagogue. One member had a megaphone and a swastika armband, another held a Nazi flag and a third held a sign with a caricature with a large nose, a blue Star of David and the words “The Jewish Threat.”

Police were called and the neo-Nazis vacated before the police arrived.

On Monday morning, the Dallas Federation activated its alert system for the leadership of local Jewish organizations, schools and synagogues.

The purpose of the alert was to let leaders of the community’s organizations know what to do in the event that the group shows up near their locations, explained Bill Humphrey, the Dallas Federation’s director of community security.

Humphrey said that the group in question is savvy and knows exactly where the line is drawn between free speech and hate crimes. They set up in order to get a reaction from passersby. Their hope is that people will engage with them.

“These guys are just about as vile as it comes,” he said. “What they’re really hoping for is the media attention. They want to see themselves on the news. They want to get the video clips or they want somebody to confront them and have that video clip.”

Humphrey said that the brazen display was “unnerving.” He said it “upset a lot of community folks and caused a lot of concern.”

Because people have the right to free speech, authorities cannot step in unless a group crosses the line.

Joel Schwitzer, AJC Dallas regional director, believes that this may mark a new level of involvement for this particular extremist group.

“The brazenness of Saturday’s demonstration across from Emanu-El feels like somewhat of an escalation,” Schwitzer said. “We should continue to be proud and vigilant Jews in the face of this hate. That vigilance includes contacting law enforcement and appropriate authorities.”

Rabbi David Stern, Temple Emanu-El’s senior rabbi, said it was deeply disturbing to walk out of Shabbat services and see a Nazi flag, but the synagogue has been enveloped by support from neighbors across the faith community and from all ethnicities.

“We all know that Dallas is better than this, and that America is better than this,” Rabbi Stern said, “but there is plenty of hate in the air, and the response to hate is not simply to take pictures of it and post them on social media, but to redouble our efforts to build a society that protects the rights and opportunities of all its citizens.”

It is likely that North Texas will continue to see incidents like this, said Stacy Cushing, regional director of ADL Texoma. She pointed out that these incidents were happening before Oct. 7 as well.

“Unfortunately, what happened at Temple is not something new to what we see,” she said. “It just, I think, puts an exclamation point, if you will, on that antisemitism has been on the rise.”

Leah White, ADL senior associate regional director of ADL Texoma, said that the ADL’s Texoma office has seen roughly a threefold increase in reports of harassment or people feeling threatened since Oct. 7.

Another issue that ADL is investigating is the removal of “Bring Them Home” hostage posters on Churchill Way around Nov. 17. A key administrator of the Alcuin School’s Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Committee removed the posters in an apparent response to discomfort from Muslim members of the school community. Jewish members of the school community were upset and complained to the school’s headmaster, Walter Sorenson. The TJP reached out to Sorenson last week, but the school was closed due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to Juliana Goldenberg, the mother of one of the Jewish high school students, Sorenson reached out to the ADL for training, but she and other parents found that response lacking and were calling on the school’s administration to fire the teachers who took the posters down.

Cushing and White said that they are investigating the Alcuin incident to fully understand the context and if there was intent.

“The general consensus for ADL is that the tearing down of any hostage poster is deemed antisemitic, but in every situation, we need to look at the context and the intent. And that’s why we’re doing the investigation,” White said.

With regard to other demonstrations that were prominent over the Thanksgiving holiday — particularly a protest by pro-Palestinian demonstrators across from NorthPark Mall — Humphrey, Cushing and White were in agreement that the demonstration fell under the umbrella of protected speech.

The protests cross the line into antisemitism when antisemitic signage is present. An example of that type of signage is “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which has been widely acknowledged to be a pro-Hamas and pro-terror slogan calling for Israel’s annihilation.

In his alert to community leaders, Humphrey said that there were no direct known threats to the Jewish community.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the ensuing war, there have been several instances of vandalism around the community. The Israel flag at the SMU Alpha Epsilon Pi house was torn down by a food delivery driver. At The University of Texas at Dallas, spirit rocks were painted with antisemitic slogans, and hundreds of participants marched and shouted antisemitic tropes in a Students for Justice in Palestine rally. An Israel flag was torn down at Olami, a branch of Dallas Area Torah Association. 

“As Jews who are justifiably concerned about Jewish safety, we recommit ourselves to living strong and vibrant Jewish lives, because this is — and has always been — the best response to those who would seek to marginalize or diminish us,” Rabbi Stern wrote Monday afternoon. “Literally and figuratively, I would say to Jews and to everybody else: We saw what showed up on the other side of the street. Now it’s time to show up — in word, faith and deed — on our side of the street.”

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