Saturday, October 3, 2009

Inaction is not Always the Right Action

Earlier this year, I got several emails from the Manhattan JCC, as well as from other Jewish orgs., warning me that a hateful and offensive (they put it more diplomatically) church based in Topeka, Kansas would be picketing them and advised visitors to simply ignore the group on their way into and out of the JCC. "Although you are entitled to your right to free speech" the email read, "we ask that you calmly pass these protesters and walk directly into our building without incident."

I can certainly understand why these orgs. would not want to draw additional attention to this group, but I didn't feel entirely comfortable with the idea of just doing nothing. Even if it wouldn't change their mind (they are obviously too far-gone for that to happen), it would demonstrate that their views are repugnant to the average New Yorker. So, I was thrilled open my local paper this morning and discover that when the group came to Beth Elohim, one of Park Slope's largest synagogues, on the day before Yom Kippur, a crowd of a hundred or more were there to greet them and drowned out the hate speech with calls for tolerance and unity. And despite a local synagogue's email which asked for people to ignore them, the synagogue's Rabbi climbed on the roof of the synagogue and defiantly blew the shofar.

And what ultimately happened? Yes, the incident got publicity. But the story was not that the church protested in Park Slope, but rather that the community rose up against them, outnumbered them and ultimately drowned them out. Now that is absolutely the kind of coverage that I can get behind.

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