Gay-lesbian synagogue turns hate rally into fundraising event
By Haaretz Service
When a predominantly gay synagogue in Manhattan learned that a group of ultra-Evangelical Christians were planning a protest outside their building, the congregation decided to turn the hate rally into a fund-raising event.
Parishoners from the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based institution, gathered on Sunday outside Congregation Beth Simchat Torah with signs reading "God hates fags" and "Jews stole the land."
The synagogue heard several days in advance of the church's planned demonstration and decided to counter the protesters' publicity drive with one of their own, rather than pursuing legal action. The congregation encouraged its supporters to donate at least $1 for every six minutes that the demonstration lasted.
Following the 51-minute protest, the synagogue was able to raise more than $10,000 in donations. The congregation, which has been renting the West Village space, hopes to eventually buy a building of its own.
Some 150 people - including members other nearby synagogues and churches - held a counter-demonstration during the fundraising event, where they sang Jewish songs and prayers.
The Westboro Baptist Church is run by Fred Phelps, an outspoken evangelist who claims natural disasters and terrorist attacks are the result of America's "tolerance" of homosexuals. Phelps targeted Congregation Beth Simchat Torah because it works primarily with the Jewish gay and lesbian community.
PS: Back from a week long trip to Aberdeen meeting my oldest and dearest friends from Edinburgh University. Let me just say that an eleven hour trip by coach with a hardly operating toilet is a not-to-be-repeated experience.