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Former Neo Nazi To Speak At East Bank Club Tuesday Amid Rise In Anti-Semitic Incidents

Organized by a local rabbi, the "Breaking Hate" will focus on how to put an end to bigotry.

Christian Picciolini during his TED Talk, alongside a photo of himself when he was part of a neo-Nazi group.
Ted Talk/YouTube
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RIVER WEST — A rabbi, a security expert and a former white supremacist turned peace maker plan to tackle the topic of hatred and how to stop it from spreading at an interfaith discussion on Tuesday. 

Rabbi Avraham Kagan, homeland security expert Michael Masters and former neo-Nazi Christian Piccolini will be participating in “Breaking Hate,” slated for 7 – 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the East Bank Club, 500 N. Kingsbury St.

Suitable for teenagers and adults of all faiths, tickets to the event are $25 and can be purchased online.

The goal of the gathering, which was prompted by anti-Semitic acts at schools in Lincoln Park and Oak Park, and the deadly shootings at a Pittsburgh synagogue, will be to “address the hate and violence facing the greater Chicago community and discuss what can be done about it,” according to a news release from Kagan, the event’s coordinator. 

“Every single Jewish individual deserves to live openly with pride in their Jewish heritage and a feeling of equality and safety as Americans,” Kagan said in a news release. “We must end the hate, and that starts with coming together to address the topic and taking upon ourselves to do more good deeds, for light will always dispel the darkness.”

Born and raised in Blue Island, Picciolini joined the Hammerskin Nation, a neo-nazi white power group at age 14.  His TED talk about how he joined the hate movement as a teen and eventually got out of it eight years later has more than 2 million views. According to the event’s Facebook page, Picciolini will speak on Tuesday about his “former devotion to hatred” and what changed his outlook. 

Kagan is the co-director of Chabad River North & Fulton Market and director of government affairs for Chabad of Illinois. Chabad is a branch of orthodox Judaism known for its outreach.  

Masters, who formerly worked as the executive director of the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Cook County, is the national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network, a faith-based national homeland security initiative. 

The discussion is being organized by Chabad of River North & Fulton Market in conjunction with Secure Community Network, Simon Wiesenthal Center and ADL Midwest. 

For more information, or to RSVP, visit Breaking Hate’s Facebook page.