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Jewish Groups Call on Appeals Court to Rehear Case Involving Anti-Israel Protests Outside MI Synagogue

The protests in front of Beth Israel Synagogue that have occurred every Saturday morning since 2003 reportedly featured signs stating “Resist Jewish Power,” “Jewish Power Corrupts” and “No More Holocaust Movies.”
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October 15, 2021
Beth Israel Congregation Synagogue, 2000 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, Michigan / Wikimedia Commons

Several Jewish groups have petitioned the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear a case against ongoing anti-Israel protests in front of a synagogue in Ann Arbor, MI.

The protests in front of Beth Israel Synagogue that have occurred every Saturday morning since 2003 reportedly featured signs stating “Resist Jewish Power,” “Jewish Power Corrupts” and “No More Holocaust Movies.” The lawsuit was filed by Marvin Gerber, a Beth Israel congregant, in 2019, arguing that the protests caused him “extreme emotional distress” and have dissuaded him from attending the synagogue, according to MLive and the City of Ann Arbor has refused to take action. In August 2020, a federal court sided with the protesters, stating that the First Amendment protects speech in a public setting. The case went to a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel, which upheld the ruling in September 2021.

Agudath Israel of America, an organization that describes itself as “the arm and voice of Orthodox America Jewry,” announced in an October 15 press release that they and seven other Jewish organizations filed a petition to the Sixth Circuit to rehear the case so that all of the judges on the court hear the case. The petition argues that the protests are interfering with Beth Israel congregants’ rights to exercise their freedom of religion because the protests are targeting congregants during Shabbat morning services. They also argue that the protesters have not applied for a permit to protest in such a setting.

“The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel’s opinion would set a dangerous precedent, marking open season on private individuals enjoying their First Amendment Free Exercise rights peacefully and without interference by protesters espousing epithets and non-protected fighting words, at house of worship throughout the country,” the petition reads, adding that the petitioners are “deeply concerned” that such protests could result in “potentially violent confrontations, vandalism, injuries, and murder.”

The protests were first started by a man named Henry Herskovitz, a former Beth Israel congregant. He claims that the synagogue wouldn’t allow him to speak about his experience in the Middle East and that his goal for the protests is to get Beth Israel to take down their Israeli flag and call for Palestinians to have equal rights. Herskovitz has argued to The Detroit Jewish News that the signs at the protests aren’t antisemitic because “we hate what Jews are doing in the Jewish state … but we don’t hate [Jews].”

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