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Resisting Anti-Semitism

Several people sent me links to blog about this New York Times article about how the state of Missouri wants to deal with a neo-Nazi group. They’ve decided that if the neo-Nazis want to perform community service by adopting a stretch of highway, they have to live with that for legal reasons, but they don’t have to like it. The state is considering renaming the highway after rabbi and theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel. In addition to having escaped the Nazis, Heschel developed a strong Jewish theological reasoning to support the movement for African-American civil rights in the 1960s.What I noticed in this article was that one of the neo-Nazis complained to the reporter that the state’s move to rename the highway was “childish.” I don’t know, folks. To me there is something desperately ridiculous about a neo-Nazi thinking anyone is going to care that she finds them childish.A better protest against anti-Semitism (or anti-Judaism? I don’t know what to call this group’s pseudo-Christian anti-Jewish bias) was what the Manhattan synagogue Beit Simchat Torah did on Sunday, according to the New York Daily News in the face of an anti-Jewish demonstration by Fred Phelp’s Westboro Church. If you don’t know about these scary people, New York Times article on their New York demo describes them:

The group’s leader, the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., who is also the father or grandfather of much of its membership, is known for his vitriolic anti-gay views. He has picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the gay man beaten and left to die in 1998 in Wyoming, as well as the funerals of soldiers, arguing that American combat deaths are God’s punishment for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.

Since April, Mr. Phelps has made Jews his primary target, protesting at Jewish institutions around the country, according to Marilyn Mayo, a director of the Center on Extremism of the Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked the group for many years. One of those institutions was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, where a security guard was fatally shot this month; a white supremacist has been charged in the murder.


Well, Beit Simchat Torah is a synagogue in New York in Greenwich Village that was founded to serve gay men and lesbians. You can’t get any further away from what the Phelps people like! Someone in Washington had the idea at a previous Westboro demo to do a fundraiser–people would pledge to support the attacked organization a certain amount of money per minute they hung around. Beit Simchat Torah was able to raise $10,000 for their building fund this way. In the old days at Oberlin, people danced the hora in the nude around Phelps. That was entertaining, but this is better.

Ruth Abrams


Author: Ruth Abrams