A few weeks ago, the JUF staff received a fax informing us of an upcoming protest to be held by people I’ll call the “Voldemort” Baptist Church as a warning to us “contentious, Christ-rejecting Jews.” These same folks, known for protesting at military funerals, said we were, “self-righteous hypocrites who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears.” Their final warning: “God has made you evil figs!” The fax is even adorned with illustrations of little figs.
We were well aware that the composers of this fine piece of literature intended to create shame in our uncircumcised hearts, but we kind of found it hilarious. The night before, I even ran out and bought a package of Fig Newtons to snack on when the big day arrived.
On July 21, as promised, a group of six arrived at 10:50 sharp, adorned with T-shirts, festooned with placards and singing loudly. They appeared to be members of the same family. Their signs preached hatred of: Jews, Obama, gays, Catholics and apparently people who eat their babies. (I didn’t know that was especially common). There were two teenage girls brandishing “God Hates Israel” signs; two older women with anti-Obama, anti-gay, and baby-eater signs; a young boy with a sign declaring that the Jews stole Israel; and the main attraction, the ring-leader of crazy, the mom. She wore blood-splattered Israeli and gay pride flags and sported four huge signs (she must have been a waitress at some point in her career, because it takes a considerable amount of talent to simultaneously bellow hateful songs and balance so many placards). To the tune of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” they sang “Hey Jews” and paced in front of the Jewish Federation.
But, the protest brought a pleasant surprise: the reactions of passers-by. Almost immediately, cabbies honked angrily, motorcyclists flicked off the protestors and business people of all ages yelled at them to go away. Workers of all races booed loudly as they walked by. College students mocked the protestors’ lack of reason, and tourists laughed and snapped pictures. A grandmotherly-looking lady flicked a cigarette butt at them.
I felt a real unity with the people of Chicago. They refused to tolerate hatred and that made me proud to be a Chicagoan and American. Never have I felt so safe, which was not at all what I was expecting. I now see that if we all embrace our evil figginess, we can make a stand against injustice.