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Protests at synagogue spark counterdemonstration

August 28, 2009

On August 3rd, protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church (this is their website) picketed four locations across Chicago – three synagogues and a democratic committee meeting sponsored by a Jewish fund.

The WBC protesters are known for their pickets of soldiers’ funerals and synagogues. They often display signs saying things such as “God Hates Fags”, “Jews killed Jesus” or “Antichrist Obama.”

The Anti-Defamation League advises groups that are targeted against engaging with the Westboro Baptist Church’s protests. They write:

“A primary goal of WBC is to garner publicity and to spread their message through tactics that grab media attention. WBC has a ‘loud bark,’ but communities should resist directly engaging with them.”

In her column, Manya Brachear asked last weekend if religion writers should even cover the protests of the WBC, seeing as they are “along the fringe of the fringe”. She asks: “Are religion writers obligated to cover the most extreme perspectives? Or do we risk granting too much legitimacy to movements that don’t matter?”

I chose to cover the protest at one of the locations, Temple Emanuel and Or Chadash synagogue in Edgewater. I did so for the reason some of the commenters on Manya’s blog point out: The WBC might be on the edge of what people consider acceptable, and often, they are beyond the edge of that. But similiar sentiments, if not as extreme, exist in mainstream culture and opinion. Therefore I think it is important to shine a light on these groups, if only to hold up a mirror for others to evaluate their own sentiments.

Also, if you watch the video you will see – it’s not really about the WBC. It’s about the others, the reaction, what the community chose to do.

You can also watch this on vimeo.

I admint, this video should have been posted about 100 years ago… let’s just say there were some technical difficulties to overcome. To my defense, the draft for this article is about 10 days old, but final exams and reporting projects kept me from posting it.

Let me know what you think about the protests, and about the video.



From → Media, Reporting

  1. When someone interviewed Sach Baron Cohen about his throw the Jew down the well routine as Borat, he commented it wasn’t so much that the people singing the song were antisemites, but rather that they were indifferent to hatred and just went along with things. Perhaps this is an example of where he’s wrong.

  2. Marvin Levin permalink

    I was there too, taking pictures and shooting my own video. I’m a past-President of Congregation Or Chadash but I did this as an individual. It was so very moving to see hundreds of good people responding to show their support. I wanted to capture the incredible response of our neighbors in turning out to protest hatred. I didn’t take any pictures of the Westboro demonstrators. I didn’t want to validate their hatred – of gays, of Jews, of President Obama, seemingly of anyone who might disagree with their extreme position.

    I invite anyone who’s interested to view those photos on the Or Chadash website ( with a link to the video.

    People of good faith can never protest too much against hatred.

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