Neo-Nazi charged with defacing Michigan synagogue

Nathan Weeden and co-conspirators allegedly planned antisemitic campaign dubbed ‘Operation Kristallnacht’

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Swastika graffiti. (Flash 90)
Illustrative: Swastika graffiti. (Flash 90)

A white supremacist was arrested and indicted on Thursday for vandalizing synagogues in Michigan with Nazis symbols in a plan he and co-conspirators called “Operation Kristallnacht.”

Nathan Weeden, 23, was charged in federal court with conspiracy against rights, and damaging religious property, for the attacks on synagogues in 2019.

Weeden allegedly vandalized Temple Jacob in the Michigan town of Hancock, part of a campaign organized with co-conspirators Richard Tobin and Yousef Barasneh. Weeden was charged with defacing the synagogue with swastikas and symbols associated with “the Base,” a white supremacist group to which the men belonged.

The suspects, led by Tobin, discussed vandalizing property associated with Jews and Black Americans on an encrypted messaging platform.

They called the coordinated planned attack “Operation Kristallnacht,” the Department of Justice said. Kristallnacht, meaning “the night of broken glass,” was a 1938 Nazi program in Germany and Austria that heralded the start of the Holocaust.

Their goal was “to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate non-white and Jewish citizens of the United States,” and prevent their targets from exercising their constitutional rights.

Tobin told the others to “focus on broad anti-white elements,” including “jew businesses,” the indictment said.

“Smash the glass, slash the tires, leave the symbol of our revolution wherever you go, and burn whatever you please,” he said. “Strike at the vulnerable lemmings, traitors, and their jewish puppet masters.”

The other members of the group replied, “Sieg Heil.”

Days later, Weeden sprayed swastikas and other white supremacist symbols on Temple Jacob, and Barasneh defaced a synagogue in Wisconsin.

Shortly after, the attack, Weeden wrote to the group chat, “I did! Went good! Got articles written!!”

Tobin, from New Jersey, was arrested two months after the attacks, in November 2019.

The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and local police investigated the case.

The conspiracy charge against Weeden carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the second charge, one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Earlier this month, FBI agents arrested a man in Michigan suspected of planning a deadly assault on a synagogue.

Antisemitic incidents have spiked in the US in recent years, according to data from the Anti-Defamation League.

There were a record 3,697 reported antisemitic incidents in the US in 2022, a record.

The use of swastikas and antisemitic white supremacist messaging soared, and Jewish institutions including synagogues were targeted in 589 incidents, mostly in the form of harassment, a 12% increase over the previous year.

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