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Neo-Nazi Images In Charlottesville ‘Too Much To Bear’ For Jewish Seniors In Encinitas

Seniors at Seacrest Village Retirement Community in Encinitas share their fee...

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: Seniors at Seacrest Village Retirement Community in Encinitas share their feelings following the violence in Charlottesville, Aug. 16, 2017.

“I felt absolutely destroyed because I didn’t think it could happen in America. I just couldn’t believe it,” said Lee Zlotnick, 89, choking back tears at a discussion at her retirement home in Encinitas.

Images of white supremacists marching with torches and Nazi flags in Charlottesville were too much to bear for a group of Jewish seniors at the Seacrest Village Retirement Community in Encinitas.

“I felt absolutely destroyed because I didn’t think it could happen in America. I just couldn’t believe it,” said Lee Zlotnick, 89, choking back tears at a discussion at the Village's synagogue on Wednesday.

Zlotnick, who was born in Germany and moved to the United States when she was 12 years old, was one of three dozen seniors who gathered to share her feelings about the incident.

“I think we have to do more and stand up more to maintain a relationship that tells us that the Jews are welcome here,” Zlotnick said, “and they will continue to live here and prosper.”

Zlotnick arrived to the United States with her mother and siblings just before the Holocaust.

"Just in time,” she said.

But vivid memories of elderly Jewish people being pulled out of the synagogue, located across the street from her childhood house, and tormented have stayed with her. So has the memory of loved ones she left behind.

“We had family, we had friends, and they were all wiped out,” she said.

So when she saw news coverage last weekend of hate groups carrying anti-Semitic signs and chanting anti-Jewish slogans, she was overwhelmed.

“It’s very frightening,” she said. “I’m scared.”

RELATED: Rise In White Supremacy Groups Demands Action, Says San Diego Jewish Leader

The seniors, most of them in their 80s and 90s, took turns passing a microphone to share their feelings and ideas for how to combat hate. Some recalled witnessing a lifetime of wars and human rights movements.

“We already fought the Civil War, we already fought World War II,” said Dee Rudolph. “How many boys died to get rid of anti-Semitism in this way, naziism, fascism ... It has to stop.”

Rudolph suggested reigniting a letter-writing campaign to lawmakers to let their voices be heard.

“We can’t just sit by and let things go,” Rudolph said. “We have to take an active part. We have a voice and we have to exercise it.”

Activism has run deep over the past year at the retirement facility. In January, dozens of the strong-willed women marched with walkers and canes through the halls in solidarity with the nationwide Women’s March. Then they put down their handmade signs and picked up pens and paper to write to lawmakers, determined to protect the rights they felt were threatened under the Trump administration.

Rudolph worries the anti-Semitism displayed in Charlottesville will spread.

"It gives them the green light to do whatever they want to,” Rudolph said. “We can’t allow it.”

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