Friday, September 25, 2009

Anti-Semitism in Great Neck, New York

I've known Great Neck for almost half a century.  Yes, it's almot fifty years since we moved there.  I left it in 1970, but my parents still live there.  It has changed a lot over the years I've known it.  The first Jews to move to Great Neck in large numbers, post-World War Two, did their best to fit in.  Until the 1970's, there were very, very few truly Orthodox, Torah-observant Jews.  Today, Great Neck is a bastion of Modern Orthodoxy, with a great (enviable according to some) number and variety of kosher stores and restaurants.  But ironically, being that it's strongly Modern Orthodox, people, especially the women, don't dress the way you'd find in Boropark or other "frum" areas.

As far as I know, antisemitism hasn't been a real issue there, besides complaints by some non-Sabbath observant Jews, and non-Jews about the inconvenience when certain stores are closed on Friday night and Saturday.  The proliferation of Orthodox synagogues keep property values high in their vacinities, which is good for Great Neck.

I don't know why the antisemitic Westboro Baptist Church members from Kansas chose Great Neck as the venue for their anti-Semitic march.  But once they did, it's no surprise that they chose to march on Old Mill Road.  Old Mill Road is a relatively short street, going east-west, between Middleneck Road (Great Neck's main street) and Baysview to the west.  On Old Mill Road, are three of the four most veteran Great Neck synagogues, the Reform Temple Beth-El, the Orthodox Great Neck Synagogue and the Conservative Temple Israel.

The police haven't banned the march.  What truly shocks me is the passivity of the Jewish community.  The rabbis are instructing their congregants to be quiet, accept the outrage and don't fight it.  In response other organizations are stepping in.

Despite pleas from officials to ignore a planned protest in Great Neck by a self-described anti-Semitic and anti-gay group from Kansas, an anti-Nazi group says it plans a counter demonstration.
The latter group, Militant Jewish Defense, has obtained a permit to protest outside the Chabad of Great Neck synagogue Friday morning, said Lt. Kevin Smith of the Nassau County Police Department.
Militant Jewish Defense says in a phone recording at its office that it plans an "organized anti-Nazi rally" Friday outside the synagogue to protest Westboro Baptist Church members from Kansas who also plan to be there. "The rally will be loud, legal and lawful," Manhattan-based Militant Jewish Defense says.

Racism, antisemitism etc don't just fade away. They must be fought in every way possible.


Anonymous said...

why 'ironically?'

this group is nuts. i also think it best to just ignore them. i believe they also have a history of provocation, and then bringing law suits justly or not. who needs this?

Batya said...

why 'ironically?'
From external, fashion, tzniyut in the street, you wouldn't expect such a strong kosher/shomer Shabbat market strength in Great Neck.

Do you honestly believe that by ignoring this group, it would meekly go away? Or would they keep upgrading their disturbances until Jewish and legal patience breaks down?

Anonymous said...

nah, this group is just fringe. they were doing the same exact things 10 years ago when i first encountered them. no fear of growth there.
there are times when just laying low when these people come around is the best course of action.

Risa Tzohar said...

I don't get it, they just discovered that there are Jews in Great Neck so they came all the way from Kansas to march there? They must be really bored.

I know I'm tagged but it"ll wait till after the fast.

Batya said...

Risa, yes, why davka Great Neck? Maybe they didn't like the Great Gatsby or they didn't want to tangle with your brother in NJ.

man with desire said...

Antisemitism is wrong and we should bless the nation of Israel. More info in this article:

Keli Ata said...

The people from that church are disgusting.

They were in my neck of the woods in February following the crash of plane 3407 (or 3704) in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence. Fifty people were killed...young people, the wife of a 9/11 victim, the cantor of a local synagogue, the flight crew.

The people from that church protested at the memorial service! Can you believe that?

They've also protested at the funerals of American soldiers killed overseas. Apparently they think these tragedies are G-d's curse on America for allowing abortions and homosexuality.

In the airplane disaster, the community responded by block the church protesters so the families of the victims could enter and leave the service in peace.

It was wonderful--gay, straight, secular, religious of all religions protected the mourners and held huge white dove placards to shield the mourners.

There are many videos of Westerboro's antics on You Tube. If I'm not mistaken even the FBI has investigated Westerboro.

I should mention that in the Buffalo plane situation only two or three Westerboro nuts showed up. They knew there would be a large counterprotest and backed off.

One of Buffalo's shining moments seeing groups that normally have nothing in common found human decency and the need to protect mourners in common.

Give Buffalo and human decency a cheer:) We did good.

Batya said...

thanks, juhani

Keli, interesting report. Thanks for letting us know.

Anonymous said...

The website mentioned by Juhani
is filled with christian propoganda
- in spite of its seemingly-innocent title and introduction.

Batya said...

Thanks for the warning.