Members of the extremist Westboro Baptist Church, known for its anti-gay and anti-Semitic rhetoric, protested in front of several Jewish institutions in New York on Tuesday.
A handful of protestors from the Kansas-based church turned out, toting signs that read "God Hates Jews" and "God Hates Obama."
With plans to protest in front of the Jewish Historical Society, Drisha Institute, and others, they arrived mid-morning at Temple Shearith Israel on the Upper West Side. From there, they went to the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, the site of another protest by Westboro members around two weeks ago.
In an email to the community, JCC Executive Director Rabbi Joy Levitt urged visitors to calmly enter the building to avoid incident. Citing the JCC's beefed up security, she said protecting members and visitors was the center's primary goal.
"Our communication remains the same," she wrote. "The JCC in Manhattan does not welcome this group's message or actions in any way.
"Our best and only response is to conduct business as usual," she said.
"They're definitely, unequivocally anti-Semitic and they always have been," said the Anti-Defamation League's director of civil rights Deborah Lauter.
Recently, "They have ramped up their protest in front of Jewish institutions," she said.
At the JCC, several community members arrived early Tuesday to stand in opposition to the protest.
"As a Jew, as a community member, as someone who highly values diversity and as a human, I felt it was important to come to show support" for the JCC, an organization "that is so inclusive," said Ina Gail Goldberg.
Goldberg said she values freedom of speech, but opposes those who are missionaries. "Don't tell me what I think is wrong," she said.
But other community members said the JCC was taking the wrong approach in declining to engage with the protestors. Bob Lamm, who said he has lived on the Upper West Side his entire life, said the "business as usual" strategy was "shameful."
"I'm here to stand up against bigotry, anti-Semitism, homophobia, against any other form of bigotry," he said. "I think it's essential that Jews stand up against them."
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