On Feb. 17, a man dressed in a gawdy yellow and blue floral outfit with a lei around his neck, along with many others from his group walked up and down Sand Lake Road in front of Chabad of South Orlando for three and a half hours shouting through a megaphone to people who were arriving for Shabbat at the shul.
“Sir, do you think you should be put in an oven?” he yelled, laughing and relishing the hate he was spewing.
Intermingled with cursing, he and a few others continued the hate talk, addressing anyone who came their way.
The man is Jon Minadeo, leader of the white supremacist hate group Goyim Defense League, a loose network of individuals, which includes five or six primary organizers/public figures, dozens of supporters and thousands of online followers.
Police were called and they tried to get the harassers to leave. Instead, the GDL group were cocky toward the police, but did leave only to return after the police were gone.
Rabbi Yosef Konikov came out and asked the men to stay off the grass. Others from the shul began singing loudly, standing arm in arm behind the haters.
On Friday, Feb. 24, U.S. Representative Darren Soto of Kissimmee met with Rabbi Konikov at Chabad of South Orlando. On Saturday, Soto posted on Twitter, “We visited the Chabad of South Orlando yesterday and spoke to Rabbi Konikov about recent acts of antisemitic harassment. We condemn this heinous act of discrimination and are working to request authorities open a criminal investigation.”
Soto learned about the antisemitic harassment through social media – much like many members of the community learned about it. He thought the men singing behind the haters (all caught on camera) were doing the right thing: Not engaging, but also not showing any fear.
“Their goal is to provoke others to violence,” said Rabbi Konikov in a phone conversation with Heritage. However, he shared that the harassment had the reverse effect on what they wanted to accomplish. “They do want violence and they were testing our limits,” he said. “Just touch them and they would have had an opportunity to bring out tear gas or attack, claiming ‘you attacked me!'”
In the meeting, Rep. Soto and Rabbi Konikov identified a plan of action. First, Konikov told Soto about the $100,000 Chabad of South Orlando was supposed to receive from the Department of Homeland Security to improve its security infrasture. That was over two years ago and they have not received the funds. Soto is going to work to cut through the red tape to get these funds to Chabad. Second, Soto will be in touch with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to proceed with a criminal investigation. The GDL may be in violation of intimidation, obstructing traffic, and committing civil rights violations.
Soto also wants to dig deeper into these hate groups to find out who the public figures are who support them.
“We have a beautiful and happy community. Its diversity is our greatest strength,” Soto said. He stated that as we see these hate activities, we need to push back as best as we can. He strongly encouraged that when any acts of hate happen, call the police and do not engage with the haters (it can cause more violence).
Soto will continue to communicate with Rabbi Konikov as well as Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky in Miami.
The effects of the harassment went even further said Rabbi Konikov. On Saturday, the day hate groups claimed as a “National Day of Hate,” Chabad of South Orlando called for a Day of Love. Jews and non-Jews came to the synagogue showing their support for the Jewish people.
“It was a tremendous outpouring of support,” Rabbi Konikov shared.