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October 7, 2015 / 24 Tishri, 5776
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Modern-Day Miracle? Williamsburg Anti-Religion Billboard Doesn’t Hang on Purim

The American Atheists' provocative billboards (Hebrew sign was altered to spare readers' feelings).

The American Atheists' provocative billboards (Hebrew sign was altered to spare readers' feelings).
Photo Credit: American Atheists

The installment of a controversial anti-religion billboard in heavily Jewish Williamsburg, Brooklyn did not take place as planned Tuesday.

The Brooklyn Paper reported that a “Southside loft owner refused to allow a billboard questioning Judaism to be installed atop his S. Fifth Street building” at the last minute, by refusing entrance to workers from the advertising company.

American Atheists, the national organization that is sponsoring the campaign of billboards telling Jews and Muslims “You know it’s a myth … and you have a choice,” announced its plans to install the sign last Friday. The billboards have sparked uproar in the Jewish community in Williamsburg not only for their content but also because they use the the Hebrew word for the Tetragrammaton, as it is sacred and may not be erased in print.

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, cited a cabal of ‘powerful neighborhood rabbis’ as responsible for the decision: “The Jews have stopped the billboard. It’s really ugly bigotry. As a former Jew, it’s repugnant to see Jews act like this.”

When asked why he had a change of heart, Landlord Kenny Stier told the Brooklyn Paper that he simply didn’t “want to get involved in this.”

Local Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsburg) was unsympathetic to the Atheist organization, saying that the billboard was “disrespectful” and did “not appear to be a genuine attempt to engage in a dialogue, but is here merely to insult the beliefs of this community.”

Clear Channel, the company tasked with installing the billboards, said that the they would be unveiled on Thursday at another site, not far from the originally-intended site.

There is no word on whether the organization will move forward with their plans to erect the Arabic-language version billboard near the Islamic center in heavily Muslim Paterson, New Jersey.

Maybe, on this the eve of Purim, we can chalk this victory up to the unseen hand of God…

About the Author: Solomon Burke is a regular contributor to JewishPress.com

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