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Atheists Target Religious Jews in Williamsburg

Provocative billboards to be posted in Muslim and Jewish neighborhoods Monday (Hebrew sign was altered to spare readers' feelings).

Provocative billboards to be posted in Muslim and Jewish neighborhoods Monday (Hebrew sign was altered to spare readers' feelings).
Photo Credit: American Atheists

A national organization calling itself American Atheists is planning to unveil its anti-religious billboards Monday in heavily Muslim Paterson, NJ and in heavily Jewish Williamsburg, Brooklyn, according to CNN.

“You know it’s a myth … and you have a choice,” the billboards declare, in Patterson in English and Arabic, and in Brooklyn in English and Hebrew. Next to the text on the Arabic billboard is the word Allah, and on the Hebrew sign is the Hebrew word for the Tetragrammaton, which Jews are not permitted to pronounce.

Including the “Shem ham’forash” in the Hebrew billboard is particularly provocative, since it is sacred and so may not be erased in print, presenting protesters with a dilemma.

According to Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, the motive behind the signs is purely humanitarian, as they are intended to reach atheists in the Muslim and Jewish communities who may feel isolated because they are surrounded by believers.

“Those communities are designed to keep atheists in the ranks,” he says. “If there are atheists in those communities, we are reaching out to them. We are letting them know that we see them, we acknowledge them and they don’t have to live that way if they don’t want to.”

The effort to discourage faith in these two devoted, monotheistic communities, receives a special meaning because it is being launched on the week of Purim, a celebration of the Jewish victory over Amalek. In Jewish sources, the function of Amalek in Jewish history is to encourage doubt in the heart of faithful Jews.

The late Christopher Hitchens depicted well the despair that has been driving atheist activists in the face of threats to their lack of faith (Atheists and agnostics make up only between 3% and 4% of the U.S. population): “Our theocratic enemy is in plain view. Protean in form, it extends from the overt menace of nuclear-armed mullahs to the insidious campaigns to have stultifying pseudo-science taught in American schools.”

But while Christian and, to a lesser extent, Muslims have been entangled in a conflict over the separation of Church and State in America, Jewish institutions have largely been staying out of those battles, and the Hasidic Jews of Williamsburg have certainly not been involved in pushing a national agenda of any kind. Posting an intrusive and insulting billboard in the midst of their neighborhood is nothing short of an unprovoked attack.

And knowing the mettle of the Hasidim of Williamsburg, they are sure to come up with a proper response.

Silverman told CNN the signs advertise the American Atheists’ upcoming convention and an atheist rally, called the Reason Rally, in Washington next month.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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9 Responses to “Atheists Target Religious Jews in Williamsburg”

  1. Dan the Man says:

    I think it would have been more offensive if they wrote it on Yiddish. Now everyone knows they don’t understand the community they were targeting, and they look even stupider shtikel dreks.

  2. Chip Fitzpatrick says:

    How ignorant!!,I can not believe that Atheists feel they are boxed into “belief”by Jews and Christians,and Muslims…out of fear that thier numbers may diminish…they were not forced to live where they are. This is “small minded” just to get ready for an upcomming convention for none believers…..I must laugh…its hard not to…they whimper like schoolgirls!!

  3. Chip Fitzpatrick says:

    In addition nobody wastes time chasing atheists to belive in something!!

  4. Myriam Obadia says:

    They don’t seem to know that you can be an Atheist and a Jew at the same time. While Jews are forbidden to serve idols or other gods, the aren’t mandated to believe, but to act according to the law

  5. Rachel in Ohio says:

    “According to Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists”
    Gee, he’s Jewish and he’s the president of the atheists!
    It’s so nice that he has risen to the top of his profession,j ust like Monica Lewinski, Leon Trotsky, Karl Marx, Noam Chomsky, George Soros. The Jewish drive to succeed is still alive :-)

  6. E.B. says:

    That isn’t true at all. What is the first of the aseres hadibros?

  7. ben says:

    Is it really fair to put Monica Lewinski’s name to that other riffraff?

  8. Ray says:

    It’s not an “effort to discourage faith”. It’s an effort to encourage those who don’t have faith yet pretend they have to come out. And there is no “threat to their lack of faith”. Religions, along with their outdated, nonsensical traditions and authoritarian “morals”, are dwindling. We as unbelievers have nothing to worry about. You, on the other hand, do, and you know it.

  9. Rebecca says:

    Not quite true. There are Christian sects that chase after the Athiests. Especially in the US army, the evangelical Christians feel they have the right to avidly and dogmatically pursue the ‘Unchurched’ (ie the athiests). This technique is something that they’ve pulled from the Christians. We don’t evangelize, but others do.

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