22 September 2009

CBE Official Statement on Westboro Baptist

Congregation Beth Elohim
September 22, 2009
Dear Friends,

On Saturday, September 26, from 9:45 AM - 10:15 AM, Congregation Beth Elohim will be picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church, an extremist anti-Semitic, anti-gay independent church based out of Topeka, Kansas.

They plan to send representatives who will stand on our sidewalk displaying disturbing signs and provoking those entering our building. They try to create enough confrontation to incite others to provocation. It is their constitutional right to picket.

Congregation Beth Elohim does not welcome this group's message or actions in any way. Our focus and mission as a community is to build an inclusive Jewish community that celebrates the strength of diversity. It is a home for individuals and families of all backgrounds to grow and to learn and to care about and deepen their connections to one another.

We have clear priorities during difficult moments such as these. Protecting our members and visitors, and most importantly our children, is a primary goal. Our internal security team is already in action and local police authorities have been alerted. Although you are entitled to your right to free speech, we ask that you calmly pass these protesters and walk directly into our building without incident.

For more information about the Westboro Baptist and for educational materials about responding to hate groups, please download a PDF provided by the Anti-Defamation League.

Congregation Beth Elohim is an amazing community in that it is a warm and welcoming place. This group will be picketing us because of our commitment to those who desire community. Though Saturday may be upsetting, it is important to remember that our precious values are truly a source of great pride. Our best and only response is to conduct ourselves as usual.

And this Shabbat we have so much to celebrate: Natalie Chertoff becomes Bat Mitzvah; Shir l'Shabbat and Yachad meet in a wonderful, family learning and Shabbat atmosphere; Rabbi Emeritus Weider celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of his own Bar Mitzvah in the Lay-Led Minyan; and Alt-Shul is hosting its bi-monthly traditional minyan. Truly a diverse and celebratory Shabbat worthy of our values of openness and celebration as one community!

Let's focus our energy and attention on making this truly a Shabbat Shalom at Congregation Beth Elohim.

May you all be blessed for another year of life, tolerance, and well-being.


Rabbi Andy Bachman
Elana Paru, Executive Director
David Kasakove, President


Jeff said...

Rabbi, May HaShem bless you. You have a very special gift for communicating effctively with wisdom and elequence.

--Jeff Lambert

malcamo said...

Strange and terrible news. This bizarre group has a full schedule of picketing: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Great Neck, Huntington (Beth El/ my hometown shul), and, to cap it all, St. Patrick's Cathedral (naturally).

In the interest of creating a "teachable moment", here is their bizarre itinerary:


Incidentally, it was 55 years ago that the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas -- declaring, 9-0, that "separate but equal" is inherently unequal.

One can only imagine how they felt about that!

dennis wilen said...

You should include a link to the PDF file you mention.

Good luck in keeping things peaceful.

Anonymous said...

"This too shall pass"

גם זה יעבור

Jeff Neubauer‎

Katie Berryhill said...

I'm so sorry that your congregation is going to have to face this challenge. I'm sure you will all face it with dignity and strength. I hope that the bat mitzvah girl and her family will have a joyous service and celebration, remembering that to be a part of a wonderful, inclusive community is worth all the challenges we might encounter. Mazel tov to her!

Rabbi Rick Winer said...

Wishing you and your congregation as peaceful a Shabbat as possible. May this challenge pass uneventfully and soon usher in a sweet New Year. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Shanah Tovah

Aaron Naparstek said...

Wow, their protest itinerary is ambitious. 8:30am in Borough Park. 9:45am in Park Slope. 12:30 in Cobble Hill...

I wonder if these Kansans have any idea how difficult it's going to be to find parking?

Aaron Naparstek said...


Would it be inappropriate if I organized a counter-protest across the street carrying "God Hates Shrimp" placards?

Andy Bachman said...

Aaron. You touch on a very important point: the potential of Transportation Alternatives to build world peace!

Dan said...

As a Park Slope resident and former Kansas Citian (Missouri side), I ask you Rabbi Bachman what can Beth Elohim's neighbors do to support you and the congregation?

Andy Bachman said...

Your peaceful presence is welcome. Whether you choose to wear a George Brett jersey is entirely up to you. Thanks for writing!

rte148 said...

I have just heard about this picketing, I am heartbroken that you have been targeted by these disgusting people.

Though I am unable to physically stand with you in solidarity, please know that I will be there in spirit.

Peace, love, health and happiness from our family in Virginia to yours in Brooklyn and throughout the world.
Joshua, Jennifer, and Bruce

Jennie said...

I also am so sorry that your congregation -- as well as all people -- are being subjected to this hatred.

My thoughts are with you!


cipher said...

Rabbi, even though their MO is to provoke others to violence (and then, I understand, sue), it still wouldn't hurt to have a couple of police officers there - but I'm sure you've thought of this already.

I'm terribly sorry they'll be disrupting your Shabbat and the girl's Bat Mitzvah.

Heidi Hoover said...

I am sorry to hear that this is happening, and would like to add my support to you and the Beth Elohim community.

Anonymous said...

I believe a goodly number of your neighbors who are not necessarily temple members will be peacefully walking by to give our support.
Shabbat Shalom!

gimmeadrinkawater said...

I wish I could be there to stand outside the temple and wish your members a cheerful Shabbat Shalom as they enter, over the jeers of the protesters. This sounds horrible and frightening and I would love to say good morning to them too.
Naomi Nissen