Members of the bigoted Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church screamed a message of anti-Semitic hate in front of a Midwood Jewish school on Monday — but counter-protesters, including a genuinely enraged assemblyman, out-yelled the group.
Five members of the Fundamentalist church sang songs and waved signs telling Jews, “Your Doom is Coming!” for about 30 minutes outside Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin on Avenue I and E. 13th Street, one of three borough stops in a daylong hate rally.
The fringe church billed its arrival as the Godsmack Tour, a reminder to Jews that the vast majority of them “will be cast into everlasting fire in hell,” according to the church’s website, which is named godhatesfags.com.
“The Lord’s promises are good and he has promised to save 144,000 obedient Jews who hearken his commandments and repent,” the website warns. “The rest of the Jews represent the disobedient masses of mankind who will dwell eternally where the worm that eats them never dies and the fire ascends up forever and ever.”
But Midwood was having none of that.
The predominantly Jewish neighborhood was aghast at the chutzpah of the protesters, who minced and pantomimed with wide smiles behind a police barricade.
About 125 counter protesters hurled obscenities and insults right back at the church, whose membership is almost entirely comprised of one Topeka family.
“Go to hell!” chanted the crowd. “Hitler’s bitches!”
“Nazi scum will die!” was another popular chant.
But members of the church were unmoved.
“Look at this sorry substitute for obedience to God,” sneered Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of church founder Fred Phelps, as she surveyed the crowd.
Earlier in the day, the church picketed in Kensington at Chabad of Kensington and Yeshiva Torah Teminah, both on Ocean Parkway between Ditmas and 18th avenues.
The group was first expected at the Chaim Berlin’s upper school yeshiva, at Coney Island Avenue and Avenue M, where counter protesters initially clamored.
“You can’t ignore Nazis, otherwise you wind up in Auschwitz,” said A.J. Weberman, a Manhattan resident originally from Flatbush. “They are subhuman insects. They are scum.”
But not everyone wanted to silence the group.
Midwood resident Binyamin Jolkovsky said he supported the group’s First Amendment rights.
“It allows people to make asses out of themselves publicly,” he said.
It is ironic that the group chose Midwood to protest, considering the mostly devout neighborhood is largely anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage in the public square, Jolkovsky said.
“I can’t imagine what they’re protesting,” he said.
The crowd then made its way to the lower school, where it waited for about an hour, time enough to hear the Jewish Defense Organization tout its “legal weapons training” program.
“We don’t want to start something up, but they do — they are coming into our neighborhood” said Yitchak Friedman, a student at the yeshiva.
But the school’s principal, Rabbi Shlomo Klein, said protesting the church simply bolsters its feeling of self-importance.
“This is all ridiculous,” he said. “What are they accomplishing? It’s important to protest — but not when you’re dealing with immature people who are anti-everything.”
But residents such as Mike Meyers said the neighborhood would be making a mistake if it ignored the hate group.
“They are a bunch of lunatics, and they should feel unwelcome here,” he said. “We want to send a message so they go away.”
When church members suddenly arrived, the scene grew frenetic.
A few men — including Assemblyman Dov Hikind — rushed the barricades, baring their teeth as they attempted to grab the group’s signs. As one of the church members spoke to this newspaper, someone in the crowd twice doused him with water, and two plastic bottles were also hurled at the group.
“We’re just trying to tell the truth to people,” explained church member Timothy Phelps. “That’s the most loving thing to do.”
The church last visited the borough a year ago, and, in the meantime, has been protesting at funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq, claiming the soldiers are “dying for the homosexual and other sins of America.” The United States Supreme Court is currently weighing whether the group’s funeral protests are protected under the Constitution or an invasion of privacy.
Phelps denied the group was a neo-Nazi organization, as commonly perceived.
“We are preachers — they were a political party,” he said. “We will never lift a hand against a single Jew. We are just telling them what’s coming to them.”
In the crowd, about 15 young men in the crowd danced a horah, a festive Israeli circle dance. A trash truck driver rumbling along E. 13th Street expressed himself by repeatedly honking his horn, drowning out the churchgoers’ rant and delighting the crowd.
As quickly as it began, the spectacle was over, as church members were escorted by cops from the 70th Precinct into a maroon van.
“That was it?” wondered a boy on a bicycle, riding past the thinning crowd.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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