After a federal court allowed the continuation of an antisemitic protest that has harassed a Ann Arbor synagogue for nearly 17 years, the National Council of Young Israel called on Thursday for elected officials and other religious groups to condemn the weekly antisemitic protest.
On every Saturday morning since September 2003, a group of protesters has gathered in front of the Beth Israel Synagogue in Ann Arbor during Shabbat morning services with signs reading "Jewish Power Corrupts,” “Resist Jewish Power,” “End the Palestinian Holocaust,” “Stop Funding Israel,” and “Fake News: Israel Is A Democracy.”
The synagogue filed a federal lawsuit in the US District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan alleging that the protesters were infringing on their federal and state rights and that the City of Ann Arbor was contributing to that violation by failing to enforce city code which requires that protests have permits.
The members of the synagogue who filed the suit, including a Holocaust survivor, stated that the signs cause congregants extreme emotional distress and negatively impact their religious experience at synagogue.
Last week, US District Judge Victoria Roberts ruled that the protests are protected by the First Amendment.
“Peaceful protest speech such as this – on sidewalks and streets – is entitled to the highest level of constitutional protection, even if it disturbs, is offensive, and causes emotional distress,” wrote Roberts.
“Taking a hands-off approach as a religious group is regularly and relentlessly harassed by a group of individuals whose sole objective is to target and intimidate Jews is disgraceful,” said NCYI President Farley Weiss, in a press release on Thursday.
“Jews attending services in a synagogue do not deserve to be demeaned as they enter their religious sanctuary to pray, just as Muslims entering a mosque or Christians arriving at a church should not be subjected to such objectionable and offensive conduct," added Weiss. "This interminable antisemitic exercise outside Beth Israel Synagogue is intended to incite hatred towards Jews and torment people as they enter a house of worship, which is reprehensible."
"After synagogues in Los Angeles were desecrated with antisemitic messages during the protests following the tragic death of George Floyd, and now a synagogue in Kenosha, Wisconsin was defaced with anti-Israel rhetoric during protests following the Jacob Blake shooting, vigilance in and around synagogues is more important than ever and apathy in the face of antisemitism is inexcusable,” said Weiss. “We hope that the courts and the local municipality will reassess this disturbing situation and take steps to move the protesters away from a location where they feel emboldened to cavalierly terrorize those who wish to peacefully exercise their freedom of religion by attending services at their local synagogue. This heinous weekly intimidation of Jews is outrageous and needs to end now.”