Encounters with the people targeting Beth Israel Congregation families at Sabbath Services


When I was first surprised by strangers picketing Shabbat services I was furious. They gave themselves permission to intrude on time I carefully set aside for my own private spirituality. It was outrageous. I told them their intrusion into my sacred space and time disrupts my Sabbath prayers. A woman replied, “Good! Your prayers should be disrupted. You pray for genocide and ethnic cleansing.” [The speaker was a woman named Gloria H. – ed.]


Shocked, I asked the other protestors whether they repudiated that disgusting remark. They all stood by the odious claim. One man [Rev. Thom Saffold- ed.] said it was simply a statement of fact that I was “a bigoted racist” (by virtue of attending Jewish worship – he knows nothing else about me).  That was not an example of a factual statement, I pointed out, it was an interpretation and an attack. I responded to him explaining that I would not call him a fat slob and then claim that it is a statement of fact, even though one could draw such conclusions and call them factual.  [Reverend Saffold regularly showed up at the synagogue looking particularly slovenly and disrespectful. He has since cleaned up, probably as a result of this exchange. - ed.]


One final point: I was confused why they targeted this particular congregation with signs reading End the Occupation. Many congregants agree. The Rabbi has even spoken from the bimah on the need for a Palestinian state and makes a point of mourning the deaths of all victims of violence. On this point all but one of the protestors were very, very clear. Their complaint is not against any particular policy of the Israeli government. They object to Israel’s continuing existence. (The one hold out said he was “not sure” whether Israel has a right to exist.)


[Ed note: The picketers playfully award “The Larry H Duct Tape Award” to whichever of them has the most egregious outburst. Named for picketer Larry Hochman’s vulgar tirade at an angry congregant, it was in this case awarded to the picketer from Livonia, Michigan - Gloria. It is worth noting that the upset congregant is roundly mocked on the protestors’ web site account of this encounter.]


The writer is an instructor of Mathematics Education at the University of Michigan