Jewish Journal

Pro-Jihadists plan synagogue protests – how to respond

by Dean Rotbart

January 6, 2009 | 12:26 pm

In my email this morning comes word that one group of pro-Hamas, pro-Jihadists supporters is encouraging aligned American Jews and others to go to synagogues on Friday night or Saturday morning and stage a protest.

“Jews especially should be doing these actions,” encourage the protest organizers.  The plan is to enter shuls in groups of 3-4 “and – in dignified firm and unemotional voices – repeat “STOP THE KILLING.”  The protesters plan to bring along a video camera to record the congregants’ responses.

“I see no possible legal impediment to this.  The public, and certainly Jews – cannot be barred from entry to the services,” says the organizer email.  “And it will be extremely hard for the synagogues to enforce exclusion.”

Finally, perhaps in an effort to explain why the pro-Hamas supporters are targeting U.S. Jews – when they always claims their beef is with Israel and Zionists, the email reads:  “The Jews of America must be confronted with their clear responsibility – far more than complicity – in the mass murders, occupation, and forced starvation of the people of Palestine.”

I doubt this will happen here in Los Angeles or almost anywhere, because the organizers are better at bluster than deeds.  But assuming that someone or some few do actually show up and interrupt services, I have some basic advice.  Let them.

These kooks are looking for confrontation and looking to generate YouTube-worthy outrage.  Their goal is really publicity and self aggrandizement.

If the Rabbi is speaking or the congregation is engaged in prayer when someone stands to protest, I would suggest that a responsible member of each congregation encourage members to finish their prayers and then be seated to “listen” to the protestors.  Give them 10 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever it takes to exhaust their rhetoric.  Then calmly finish services.

The designated congregation member might, after an appropriate time, say to the protestors, “We’ve given you ample time to state your grievances.  Now, please, allow us to resume services.”

If the protestors do not leave or allow services to continue, then, and only then, would I recommend asking security – but never members of the congregation – to step in.  If at all possible, have the police arrest and remove the protestors.

At all times, keep in mind the goal of the protestors is to make Jews look aggressive and angry.  Don’t be either. Don’t give them the video they so crave of seeing Jews in America acting in a fashion that is unbecoming of our people.

If it were my shul, I’d go so far as to invite them on the pulpit to make their presentation and then answer questions.  I’d give them the respect they deny us.

More than being confronted by police or security, I suspect that what these protesters fear most is being confronted by the truth. Their nightmare is actually having to engage in a calm, rationale dialogue.

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