SUMMIT COUNTY " The grinning, bearded fellow known for spreading joy through Summit County streets has a controversial message he's not afraid to hide.
"ACLU Jews are anti-Christ. Yes, they are. And they need to be rebuked, and they need to be censored, and they need to be stopped. And it's an opportunity for them to repent," said Brother Nathanael (Milton) Kapner.
He said the American Civil Liberties Union has stifled Christian expression while supporting homosexuality. He's also upset with Zionists he says control major media outlets and departments of the U.S. government and the politicians who advocate for the state of Israel.
"In many ways he plays to very old, anti-Semitic stereotypes," said Mark Potok, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's intelligence project, which investigates and monitors hate groups. "I think this guy is a wacky character on the fringe of the fringe."
Summit County residents may recognize Brother Nathanael from his presence on along roads, waving his crucifix, an American flag and signs with such messages as "Got Hope?"
He recently got into a spat with Silverthorne town officials over his presence on a highly trafficked median. The issue was dropped when issue turned from one of public safety to one of First Amendment rights, according to a statement from the town.
Despite running a website packed with messages critical of Jews, Brother Nathanael said he doesn't advocate violence toward Jews and is not out to spread hate.
"I am criticizing nothing about racial characteristics, nothing about bloodlines. I am criticizing the conduct of Zionist Jews," he said.
He refers to Zionism as "a secular, geopolitical movement hiding behind the faith of Judaism and using it as a protective shield."
Nathanael is a practicing Russian Orthodox Christian. He said his message transcends denominations.
His website, www.realjewnews.com, contains a spectrum of conspiracy theories regarding Sept. 11, the President William McKinley assassination and suppression of Christians " all pointing fingers at Jews.
He even linked a local event " the recent closing of the Dillon Dam Road " to forces high in government.
"We now have a police state and U.S. Homeland Security. They're behind closing the Dam Road," he said, adding that Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff was the one giving the order to close the road.
He said everything on the website is evidence-based and that nothing he's published is racist but is intended to expose the conduct of a "very self-conscious, elite group."
The site has accrued more than 600,000 unique visitors in less than a year, he said; it's garnered responses ranging from donations to death threats.
Potok said Nathanael's message is similar to the rhetoric the Nazis used to talk about Jews.
"He comes very close to blaming the Jews for what happened to them in many wars, including the Second World War," he said.
Potok said he wouldn't call Nathanael's message "hate speech" because, as a legal term, it can be applied differently in varying situations.
Nathanael said he was raised in a Jewish family and went to synagogue as a child. He first learned of Christianity when listening to Christmas carols with his father. His siblings are Jewish, but he said he loves them regardless.
"I hope the Jews repent and become Christians," he said.
Following two decades in sales and eight years in a monastery, he's now one of Summit County's most eye-catching characters. He bears symbols to reach as many passersby as possible through nonverbal communication.
Nathanael was in Las Vegas last week, where he said he was well-received by civilians and bothered by police and security personnel. He'll be in New York City for the seventh anniversary of Sept. 11.
"It was an inside job. There's no doubt about it," he said of the Sept. 11 attacks, adding that the Mossad " the Israeli intelligence agency " was behind them.
Potok said this is an "absurd, completely anti-Semitic conspiracy theory."
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.