North Dakota, with around 400 Jews out of a population of 700,000, is not much of a Jewish neighborhood. So why should I be concerned that an anti-Semitic white supremacist has plans to take over a tiny town there?
Call me a worrier.
In a region where the average low in January is 2 degrees, and annual snowfall averages near 50 inches, things are heating up, and it’s not a good heat.
Craig Cobb, a 61-year old self-described white supremacist, has moved to the North Dakota town of Leith, which has a population of 16 and, I am guessing, no Jews.
I know this sounds like a bad reality show, but Cobb — who looks like an escapee from the A&E reality show “Duck Dynasty” — has bought up about a dozen properties, including a house where he lives, and he plans to invite other white supremacists to the town located about 70 miles southwest of Bismarck, turning it into a white neo-Nazi enclave.
Cobb “pictures the town decorated with fluttering flags and banners bearing the swastika,” said USA Today, which I suppose will make the Nazi flag makers happy, but very few others.
However, Cobb already has a problem. One of his neighbors, the town’s lone black resident, Bobby Harper, told CNN that’s he’s staying put. “This is my home,” he said.
“I only need 17 people,” Cobb is reported to have said, though his buddy, Tom Metzger, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and founder of the White Aryan Resistance, already has turned down a move to Leith.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Cobb is “a longtime neo-Nazi activist videographer who runs Podblanc, a white supremacist video-sharing website.” The site is modeled after YouTube, “which Cobb refers to as ‘Jew Tube’ because its operators censor racist and anti-Semitic content.”
Cobb is also wanted in Canada, where he formerly lived, for promoting hatred on his blog.
Governing Leith is a mayor and a six-person council that meets once a month. To defeat Cobb’s plan, they are considering dissolving the city and returning the area to county government.
“He would still own his property,” said Mayor Ryan Schock, a farmer and lifelong resident of Leith. “But … he can’t control the city if there’s no city government.”
If you are up on Jewish folklore, that plan sounds like it’s straight out of Chelm — a village where to keep one person’s footsteps from messing up the pristine snow, four people carry him around.
Instead, what about simply outvoting Cobb? Couldn’t others migrate to the area as well? For example, in 2012 Chabad moved to Fargo, where it is now hosting Shabbat dinners and is even planning a public menorah lighting.
Maybe there are others who would like to move to North Dakota? The air is fresh. The roads, open. Housing is moderately priced. With chickens running around, it will be just like a Sholem Aleichem setting, except with cable. I checked, and about an hour and half away in Bismarck there’s even Chinese food.
As to the public menorah lighting, why not move it to Leith? In many U.S. cities around Hanukkah time, Chabad has cars outfitted with electric menorahs cruising the streets. In North Dakota, couldn’t a spare menorah car or two be found to cruise Leith? Or at least park in front of Cobb’s house with the menorah flashing and the Hanukkah music blasting?
Gotta proclaim the miracle, right?
Edmon J. Rodman is a columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.