This morning I woke up to the sound of rain and was certain that I would be one of the few people standing with my synagogue. As you know, we organized a counter-protest with the Edgewater Community Religious Association against the Westboro Baptist Church. I grabbed my umbrella and made two stops. The first was at a drugstore for a big marker and some poster board, the second at Metropolis for coffee.
While my bagel was toasting, I quickly made a couple signs. One said “Edgewater: No Room For Hate,” the second said, “Do Unto Others,” and the third said, “G-d Hates Shrimp.” The idea behind the third is that you either take it all literally or none of it literally and the condemnation of gays comes from Leviticus, same as keeping kosher.
I was juggling the posters, a hot coffee and my bagel as I walked from Metropolis to my synagogue, still certain that nobody was going to show up. It was then that the people walking next to me offered to carry the posters. They were coming to stand with us. Two of the men told me that their priest had talked about the counter-protest during every mass on Sunday. While both men were from the same church, they had gone to different masses. The woman was a Jew and said she’d gotten emails from 4 different mailing lists, encouraging attendance.
As we got closer, we realized that there was indeed a crowd on our side of Sheridan. I’d estimate 150-200 people showed up to say that hatred has no place in our neighborhood. While I can’t identify different clergy among the Christian churches, there were many men of the cloth with their congregants. I saw signs from the Presbyterians and St. Gertrude’s. Alderman Joe Moore and State Rep Greg Harris have been identified in photos and I’m certain that Alderwoman Mary Ann Smith was also there.
We had seating for those who couldn’t stand – congregants from many churches and our shuls sat with us. Children and adults. People from all the different religious groups. Openly gay men and women. A couple that marched with Saul Alinsky in the 60s.
I had goosebumps when we sang the national anthem and God Bless America. Honestly, there aren’t too many songs that both Jews and Christians can sing together without stepping on the others’ religious toes, so I think going with our country’s songs was important. There was such a friendly and almost joyful vibe on our side, save the one guy that kept shouting “Bigots go home.”
Thank you to all of the churches and neighborhood organizations that stood with Emanuel Congregation and Or Chadash today. I didn’t expect you to come and you blew me away by showing up. While Westboro doesn’t deserve the attention we gave them, I hope our neighborhood is stronger for standing together and (dare I say) networking. I hope we remember the faces we saw today and say hello when we pass each other on the streets.