Yesterday we received word that the Phelps Family and their minions from the Westboro Baptist Church would be in the Chicago area. Specifically, they'll be in Skokie and Evanston demonstrating tonight, erev Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish new year.
Here is a picture I took when the folks from the Westboro Baptist Church (regarded by many as a fringe hate group) name through Chicago in 2009.
Encouragingly, there were only about five WBC folks and several hundred counter-demonstrators (pictured). Edited 9/14: I removed the photo of the young children holding the "God Hates Jews" sign because A) when I saw it on my blog, it shocked me, B) I feared some nutjob would find and copy the image through search and use it for nefarious purposes and I do not want to play a role in perpetuating that kind of evil.
Of the five or so folks from WBC, two of them were children. It's bad enough to be spewing that kind of hate, but to brainwash children like that? Horrible.
We won't be going to the erev service as we'll be welcoming the new year with my husband's family. I hope the WBC crowd won't be around at Thursday's service, though we've been assured there will be a sizable amount of security on hand.
But still. Ugh.
We've been asked to stay calm and merely continue with our holiday as planned, so I'm hoping maybe the Unitarians and Methodists and such will show up to counter-demonstrate while we're deep in prayer (or catching up with friends we haven't seen since May).
Dana AKA Mombian passed along this brilliant Pennies in Protest idea that I in turn passed along to the rabbi and several members of our synagogue. Via Twitter, I've learned of other ways people have used a visit from the Phelps for the greater good, rather than getting caught up in the WBC's message of hate.
I don't think there will be riots or fighting, but still, what an awful way to start a new year. That said, the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are supposed to be a time for contemplation, and this certainly provides a lot of food for thought. (Ha, food for thought, day of fasting.)
By the way, if you teach one or more of my boys, would you kindly refrain from mentioning this demonstration to them? We've not yet discussed it as a family.