A pol in Georgia treats trolls to JNF trees


Georgia legislator Esther Panitch was inspired when Renee Evans, of the World Jewish Congress, bought trees in Israel for Peach State legislators who voted in favor of a bill codifying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism into state law.

Evans put Jewish National Fund tree certificates on the lawmakers’ desks. “I saw the certificate, and I was like, ‘Huh. This would be great if I could just name it in honor of a troll’,” Panitch, a Democrat who is the only Jewish state legislator in Georgia, told JNS.

Thus her “trees for trolls” approach was born.

On April 11, Panitch posted on social media that she donated a tree in Israel in honor of the University of Georgia chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. “We should build a forest for all the trolls,” she wrote.

The trees cost $18 apiece — $10 each when purchased 10 at a time.

“Israel benefits, and the trolls get a little of their own medicine,” said Panitch, who grew up with a JNF pushke near the Shabbat candles and kiddush cup, and is also active in Hadassah.

Panitch said she was raised “kind of Conservadox. … I’m not shomer Shabbos but I’m trying to get better, and not be on social media, definitely, on Shabbat.”

She and her husband, who met at a Greater Miami Jewish Federation singles event — “we’re like poster kids,” she said — keep a kosher home. She went to Camp Ramah and all of her kids went to Camp Judaea. Both Panitch and her husband grew up in Zionist homes.

“We wanted to make sure that our kids had that education,” she said.

“I feel good that we have a government that is supporting not just Israel but the Jewish community within the United States,” she added. “I’m especially grateful to live in Georgia, where I have a state legislature and an executive branch, who stands by the Jewish community, as evidenced by the passage of the IHRA definition this past year.”

Panitch had a run-in with Jewish Voice for Peace in March 2023, which led her to buy an Israeli tree in honor of that anti-Israel group earlier this month.

After seeing JVP members at a hearing, she invited them to meet with her in her office. Though they scheduled a meeting, the JVP people didn’t show up, Panitch said.

“I’m sitting in my office emailing them, ‘Hey are you in the building? Are you close?’ They said, ‘Oh sorry. We couldn’t get to the Capitol today’,” Panitch said. “Then I saw my minority leader, who said, ‘Can you meet with me this afternoon, there are some Jewish people coming.’ I’m like, ‘Who’?”

He told Panitch the names, and it turned out to be JVP.

Jewish Voice for Peace was going around telling Georgia lawmakers that it represents the Jewish community.

“By the time that we realized that they were lying, it was a little late in the session to educate my colleagues about who actually represents the Jewish community, or who didn’t represent the Jewish community,” she said.

In late November, State Affairs Georgia asked Panitch in an interview what the people of Georgia should know about the war against Hamas in Gaza.

“Anybody who tokenizes Jews by holding up JVP, or IfNotNow, they’re tokenizing the Jewish community by using some who are willing to be used as a cover,” Panitch told the news outlet. “Don’t forget, there were Jews who supported the Nazi party before they were killed.”

“Well they didn’t like that,” Panitch said.

She receives antisemitic attacks from both the far left and far right, she said, and many also have “a misogynistic slant.”

“I don’t pay attention to people I don’t know. They can spend all of their time trolling me. It’s fine,” she told JNS. “It’s the people I do know, who have either been silent or have refused to stand up, notwithstanding that we, the Jewish community, have stood up for other minorities in their times.”

“I’m a lawyer. I have a thicker skin. I do divorce and criminal defense. I’ve been the subject of hate campaigns before,” she added. “It’s just something you deal with. It’s not fun, but you deal with it. You don’t let it distract you, and frankly, the more it comes, you know you’re closer to your target.”