It’s Easter morning. My Christian friends are observing their most holy day of the year celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.
For Jews this was never a good time of year. Historically the charge of Christ-killer surfaced during the days and weeks leading up to Easter day. Passion plays filled with anti-Semitism performed at this season and priests’ sermons often riled up the people into such hatred that it would spill over into pogroms throughout Europe in a different time. When Passover and Easter overlapped as they do this year-blood libels spread as accusations against Jews stealing Christian babies and using the blood to make matzah would often cause massive killings of Jews and retaliation for imagined wrongs.
So even though today Easter is filled with sweet furry bunnies and yummy chocolate candies and jelly beans the truth of Easter and the Jews is a history of hurt and hate and pogroms and murder.
This year is no different. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church members from Topeka, Kansas are at it again. They are whipping up accusations of the Jews as Christ killers. It is not enough that they preach a gospel of hatred toward gay people. They show up with their “God Hates Fags” signs and protest gay community events. Phelps rose to particularly infamy more than 10 years ago when he protested at Mathew Shepherd’s funeral in Wyoming. Mathew Shepherd was the young man who was brutally beaten and left for dead tied to a split fence like Jesus to the cross who died from his injuries became the focus of their theology of hate. Phelps exported that everywhere around the country spewing his homo-hatred for everyone to see.
But now in recent months Phelp’s thirst for hatred has grown and his focus is increasingly the Jewish community. Phelps and his sick followers (often just his family members) travel from community to community protesting outside synagogues and Jewish community events. They whip up old-fashioned anti-Semitism based on these old-time gospel canards.
This week I received in the mail an offering from Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church in the form of a DVD mailed to the synagogue. On the outside it said “Obama Hates Israel” written in white letters on a black DVD holder in the midst of a Jewish star. There is a lot of debate in the Jewish community about the Obama administrations position on Israel. But when you open the box and pull out the DVD–the DVD says “Jews Killed Christ”.
To be honest I didn’t play the DVD because the ADL sent warnings to many synagogues about the DVD and they were afraid that it was filled with viruses to infect computer systems. But in truth the infection was the brand of sickness that Phelps and the members of the Westboro Baptist Church foment.
Phelps picked this week of Passover and Easter to try to whip up those horrid memories.
He can try. But we are stronger than his hatred. Happy Passover. Happy Easter.
Today is the fifth day of counting the Omer.