Shining ‘Light’ on hate

Editor Ellen Futterman

BY ELLEN FUTTERMAN, EDITOR

If you’ve ever worked on a major home improvement project you know it usually takes about triple the time and double the money. The same is more or less true when it comes to major work projects.

Six months ago, we received a grant from the Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis for the Jewish Light to study hate crimes both locally and nationwide. The grant was sizable enough to hire some good freelance journalists to help and it stipulated that the story or stories run soon after the first of the year.

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OK, so maybe May 26th isn’t soon after the first of the year. Then again, when we applied for the grant we had no idea that the project would entail a dozen stories running not just in the Light’s news pages but also on our vastly improved Web site (stljewishlight.com) and in the St. Louis Beacon (http://www.stlbeacon.org).

Most of the series appears in a special section in today’s paper. Video and a few others stories appear only online, and we encourage you to check both out.

Given the amount of information we’re presenting, it’s hard to believe not everything made it into the paper, but that is the truth. In researching hate crimes, we spoke with people associated with groups known for preaching hate, who didn’t make it into our stories by name, but certainly made an impression. We also, for the last six months, received daily Google alerts about hate crimes and incidents involving white supremacists as well as anti-Semitic incidents throughout the world. Typically, on any given day, we would get 15 to 20 reports.

One such report, in the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail online site, involved a Springfield, Mo. mother who drove with her children to Los Angeles earlier this month to attend a neo-Nazi rally. The mother is a sergeant at arms in the National Socialist Movement, which has active chapters in Springfield and Jefferson City. She is teaching her children to idolize Hitler, believe the Holocaust never happened and that the U.S. should deport all non-white people from America. “All-non-white people in America should be sent back to where they came from, and me and my kids will fight to make that happen,” she told the Daily Mail. “If they tried to bring a black, Mexican or Chinese friend home, I wouldn’t have that.” Her eldest son can’t comprehend that he or his siblings would be friends with anyone who wasn’t white.

Based in Aurora, Mo., Glenn Miller is running as a write-in candidate for the U.S. Senate and has several radio advertisements on Springfield stations claiming the Jews control the federal government and the media. His platform is essentially returning America to the “whites,” though he belittles them for being stupid throughout his radio spots. He recently was on Howard Stern’s satellite radio program where virtually no restrictions are place on what is said. When Stern, who is Jewish, asked Miller whom he hated more, blacks or Jews, Miller quickly responded: “Jews, a thousand times more. Compared to our Jewish problem, all other problems are mere distractions. White people are in bondage to you Jews.”

Then there are the folks from the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) in Topeka, Kan. whose Web address we can’t publish in this family-oriented newspaper. Members of this vitriolic group target mostly gays and Jews and regularly picket institutions and individuals they think support homosexuality or undermine what they believe is God’s way. This includes picketing funerals.

In an email exchange with Shirley Phelps-Roper, a daughter of WBC founder Fred Phelps, we asked, “What is your position about Jews living in America?”

Here is a portion of the response that was sent to us from the same email address: “If you have any sense whatsoever, you will FIRST – arrange your affairs to OBEY YOUR GOD!!  After that, if God will have mercy upon any one of you, you will GET OUT of this nation, as her destruction is IMMINENT!!” She then adds: “We find the Jews to be networking, lying, inventers of evil things, and teachers of filthy rebellion.  Oh, and they are spitters and tire slashers as well.”

As you can tell, working on this series wasn’t exactly a walk in the rose garden. But then again, we had some naches to counterbalance the angst of this compelling, but largely bleak project.

In the last month or so, as the series neared completion, we also finished up the first edition of the Light’s new Oy! Magazine, which pays tribute to 17 (yeah, it was supposed to be 18, but stuff happens) “Unsung Heroes.” These are people or groups that help individuals, some Jewish, some in the greater community, quietly sharing their selfless generosity with those in need. On Monday night, we honored these heroes at a ceremony at the JCC’s new arts building, with more than 300 people in attendance.

Writing about these people and putting together the event served as a much-needed respite to our hate crimes project. Although as our series bears out, there are tremendous people in St. Louis and elsewhere working to combat hate in America, there are also many who seem to thrive on it.

Thankfully, the St. Louis community is rich in leaders, volunteers and unsung heroes who will do everything in their power to fight for social justice and the civil rights of all. To each of them, we once again say thank you, and our coverage is the least we can do to recognize their very substantial efforts.