Jewish Journal


June 30, 2009

Neo-Nazi trash on a rabbi’s highway



Neo-Nazis stretch of highway Photo: NYT

I found this gem last week and tucked it away, only to lose it when my bookmarked stories to blog got pushed by new ones into oblivion. But this story, one of those stranger-than-fiction dispatches, is worth bringing back from the grave. It concerns the Adopt-A-Highway program and the limits of free speech.

In Missouri, a neo-Nazi group adopted a half-mile stretch of Route 160. The state said it was powerless to prevent organizations from participating in the Adopt-A-Highway program on political grounds, regardless of how reprehensible their ideology is. (Really? I wonder what would happen if NAMBLA tried to get involved.) So lawmakers decided they would dedicate that stretch of highway to the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

And that has Heschel’s daughter, not to mention the neo-Nazis, upset:

“I don’t want Nazis stomping on a highway named for my father. What are they going to do then if they don’t pick up the litter? The whole thing is disgusting,” said Susannah Heschel, professor of Jewish history at Dartmouth College.

“It may be an attempt to teach the neo-Nazis a lesson, she said. But I think it’s an affront to my father’s dignity to attach his name to a neo-Nazi highway.”


“I understand the good intentions,” Susannah Heschel said. “Everybody wants to get rid of racism…. But I don’t think it should be done this way.”

Representatives of the National Socialist movement in Missouri did not immediately return calls seeking comment about the legislation Sunday. But a statement on the movement’s Web site calls the renaming a lame attempt to insult National Socialist pro-environment/green policies.

The Web site has images of the Confederate flag, swastikas and members in military garb, and says the group fights for the rights of all White American citizens of European descent.

“We welcome this spineless legislation, as it will no doubt spur a backlash from the local people whom will wonder why anyone, especially outside Jewish agitators would attempt to disrespect local citizens that volunteer their time to clean local roads,” the statement said.

I’m not sure where these tale is headed, but you can read the rest of the AP’s initial report here.

After the jump, see what happens when Kramer adopted a highway and turned three lanes into two:


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