Thanks to Ellie Dankner for the head's up.
Students at Brandeis University are preparing to meet the Westboro Baptist Church's threatened picket of its Hillel center on Friday with their own day of activities that they're calling “Celebrate Brandeis.”
“The soul of Brandeis is found in our common values, including the need to stand strong against hatred and bigotry. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. These values compel us to affirm our support for Hillel, and all of the Brandeis family,” said Rachel Goldfarb, who is a Brandeis senior and the spokesperson for Friday's activities. “The day’s events will focus on the positive things that come out of our community, to demonstrate how strongly the WBC has misunderstood our campus.”
The Topkea, Ks.-based Westboro Baptist Church is notorious for its inflammatory views about gays and non-Christian religions, and protests outside of military funerals and gay-rights events. The group on its website said it plans to do a picketing tour of area schools and a Wayland mosque.
Last Monday, Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz sent a letter to the university community to let them know the group would be making its way to the front entrance of Brandeis on South Street.
“As a community, we stand united in opposition to the vile expressions of this group,” wrote Reinharz. “I urge all members of our community to focus on the inclusive values that Brandeis stands for rather than WBC’s hateful agenda, knowing that what WBC seeks most is attention.”
Goldfarb said the day's events will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will feature “speakers, performances, and other programming by a wide range of campus leaders and groups.” There's a Facebook group dedicated to the event, and those who want to support Brandeis' efforts can sign an online petition.
The Brandeis community is also pledging money for Keshet, a Boston-based Jewish group that supports gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual people. So far, people have pledged $1,500, said Goldfarb.
According to the Westboro Baptist Church's website, the group plans to picket on Friday outside of Framingham High School from 6:55 a.m. to 7:25 a.m.; the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland from 7:50 a.m. to 8:20 a.m.; Brandeis University Hillel from 8:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.; and Harvard Hillel from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
The group also plans to protest on Saturday from 6:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. before Framingham High's Saturday night production of “The Laramie Project.” There will also be a Friday performance of the play about the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay man, in Laramie, Wyoming.
The Framingham community has also used the planned picket as a catalyst for community forums to increase dialogue about free speech, issues that affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual communities, cyber-bullying, and suicide. The high school and Framingham community will hold a candlelight vigil and rally on Saturday night from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m just before the 7:30 p.m. performance of “The Laramie Project.”
Megan McKee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.