Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hate group to demonstrate at Brooklyn synagogue

On Monday, I posted about a hateful anti-Jewish demonstration conducted outside a Rosh Hashana service in Oklahoma by a small cult-like group called the Westboro Baptist Church. (Read here.) Today I learned that this group is coming to my synagogue. Gene of Harry's Place was kind enough to post the following:

Blogger Adam Holland has received an email from Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, where his family attends services and where his 4-year-old son attends preschool:

The email concerns plans by a hate-group to demonstrate outside the synagogue. I’ve written frequently about anti-Semitism on my blog for the past three years. Now it has come to my doorstep and demanded my attention and the attention of those who care about this issue.

The group in question, Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, has a long history of demonstrating at gay pride events with signs and slogans of the lowest, most hateful kind. More recently, they have similarly targeted the funerals of those killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they target Jewish religious services as well. I’m asking those with the capacity to speak out against the efforts of Westboro Baptist Church to harm Jews, gays, and members of the military to do so now.

As I wrote on my blog, Westboro Baptist demonstrated outside Rosh Hashana services in Norman, Oklahoma, last Saturday bearing signs reading “God hates Jews”. No Jewish child should be forced to read that sign. No family should have to explain to their child what that sign means. Our families should not be forced to run a gauntlet of bigots in order to worship. By exposing this sort of hatred, and by demonstrating our commitment to peaceful coexistence between all religions, we help to counter those who try to sow seeds of hate.

You may recall that the same group demonstrated outside my old high school last spring because it’s named after the notorious homosexual Walt Whitman.

Although I had some reservations about giving this group the attention it obviously lives for, I've decided to go ahead and cover this. Why? Because I know that I and many other parents will be unable to bring our children to Shabbat services this Saturday so they aren't exposed to hate like that pictured below.

Jacob Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church protests at the Oklahoma University Hillel Rosh Hashahah service.

I'm not sure what will happen on Saturday. Watch this space for a follow-up.


The back of the hill said...

Okay, that's the kind of venomous anti-Semitic sh*t we don't need.

I am having a hard time, a VERY hard time, trying not to justify the existence of the JDL.

I am not succeeding very well.
I shall leave my desk now and have a drink. When I return tomorrow morning I sincerely hope that I will not be thinking of the virtues of the Glock 19. Which was at one point lovingly praised by Treppenwitz.

Adam Holland said...

"The back of the hill":

While I share your anger, I want to stress in the strongest terms that violence is not the proper response to this sort of provocation. The answer is not to be intimidated in the face of hatred, and to conduct ourselves in the way we would like others to do. Although my 4-year-old is not going to be exposed to this, I think that the adults in the community should turn out to show how reasonable people behave.

That is what I want my son to take away from this event. Not violence.

Oldguy said...

Everyone knows that the "Westboro Baptist Church" is nothing more than a family of loony toons that are so far out there no one really pays attention to them.
The ones you have to really worry about are the "back door" anti-Semites, like Buchanan, Alex Jones and most Ron Paul cheerleaders.
They're the ones who can mainstream their particular type of bigotry.

Adam Holland said...


"No one really pays attention to them"? Not the people who, as they bury their loved ones, are forced to hear Westboro's obscene mocking chants and read their homophobic signs? Not the people shielding their children from Westboro's "God Hates Jews" signs and chants as they go to their place of worship? Not the ones celebrating their freedom at a gay pride rally in spite of signs reading "GOD HATES THE WORLD BECAUSE YOU'RE GAY"?

Who is this "no one" to whom you refer?

The fact is that the objects of the Westboro Baptist Church's hate have largely chosen to remain silent to avoid giving them the publicity they crave, not because what they're doing is unimportant.

Why is it important? Because it hurts innocent people for no reason. If you don't see that already, I'm afraid an explanation won't do any good.

The others you mentioned are dangerous for their political influence. You're right that they ultimately pose a greater threat, but that doesn't prove that Westboro is harmless, as you seem to think.

MSWallack said...

WBC is protesting here in Indianapolis today at the Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Community Center (which is adjacent to the Hebrew School, nursing home, and Sephardic congregation and essentially across the street from the Hebrew Academy and orthodox congregation), and at a local high school (with a large Jewish population) that is performing "The Laramie Project".

The Indianapolis JCRC strongly urged members of the community not to engage the WBC protestors.

Adam Holland said...


Thanks very much both for letting us know about what's happening in Indianapolis, and for reminding me to say the following.

I was lax in not stressing that Congregation Beth Elohim has issued the same advisory not to engage these people. I really want to make this point very clear: WBC are bigots, they're crazy, they're not very smart, and they are deeply committed to their cause. As buffoonish as they appear, they may be dangerous.

Please steer clear of their demo (to the extent that's possible) and don't bother trying to reason or argue with them. The best way to counter them is not to let them interfere with your plans.

Rebecca said...

My sympathies that these creeps will be showing up this Shabbat. While I understand why you don't want to protest them yourselves, it seems entirely reasonable to me that another group of people could show up to show solidarity with your congregation, as also can happen.

Anonymous said...


I have run into these guys numerous times out here in Kansas. You cannot argue with them and you should not engage, as your advisory from Beth Elohim stated.

Sorry you have to deal with this trash.

All the best.

Oldguy said...

>Why is it important? Because it hurts innocent people for no reason. If you don't see that already, I'm afraid an explanation won't do any good.<
I do see it Adam, no explanation is necessary.
It may surprise you but you don't have the market cornered on common decency and empathy for the innocent.

So what exactly is it that you want the government to do?
Beat them up?
Imprison them?
Kill them?
I never said they were harmless, what I said is that they are loons and everyone knows it.
Like it or not even loons have the right to free speech, not just the speech approved by Oldguy or Adam Holland.

I'm all for a solution to the Westboro Baptist Church but just what would that be?
What kind of solution to their rantings and ravings would leave free speech and protest intact for everyone else?
I'm as outraged by their idiocy as anyone else, but other than ignoring them and attempting to marginalize them socially, what is the solution?

Adam Holland said...


Your comments are a distraction. I don't believe these people should be silenced by the government and no one could reasonably infer that from what I wrote. Moreover, there is no "solution" per se, so your rhetorical question about what it might be merely states the obvious.

As to your protestation that you "never called them harmless", I'll let the reader decide what you meant when you wrote that the "Westboro Baptist Church is nothing more than a family of loony toons that are so far out there no one really pays attention to them", and followed this statement with a list of who was truly harmful.

Graham Warrener said...

I came here thanks to "the back of he hill"
This is so disgusting

America- the land of the free & quite a few seriously disturbed?

Mazel tov to those who stand up to this crap!

JoeNardiello said...

Peaceful counter-protest or ignoring them will work just fine. Our NYPD is all over this, and they will ensure their behavior.

That being said, we know that we in the most part live in peace amid a diversity seen nowhere else, really. Having heard alarming possibility for what this hate-group may stir -- I'd gone to the Ft. Greene/Brooklyn Tech demonstration. The counter-protesters were the students of that HS, which was oddly targeted by this oddball group of haters most probably for Brooklyn being in its name (as this 'trip' seems a media strategy more than anything else). The 200+ HS students' reaction was the story of that day, not this hate-group.

Maybe the NY Times headline should be: "Brooklyn tells Hate-Group they put the Ass in Kansas".

Peace across the rest of the holidays.

Anonymous said...

They're obviously just a fringe group, a bunch of freaks. And there were probably very few of them demonstrating.

I live in Park Slope only a few blocks away from that temple, and I thought I might have a peak at the demonstration just out of morbid curiosity, but I later forgot to go.

Did the demonstration actually happen? What was it like?



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