Commentary Religion

Co-Opting of Jewish History and Faith Hits All Time Low in Planning of Wichita Anti-Choice Memorial

Kari Ann Rinker

Wichita’s “pro-life memorial” will also include 60 crosses “symbolizing 60 million abortions” and will be a part of the same memorial as the Jewish Wailing Wall. Radical anti-choice terrorists are increasingly co-opting Jewish symbolism to further their agenda despite the vociferous objections of Jewish leaders.

It is safe to say that the anti-choice movement is a right-wing conservative, often fanatical Christian movement. In fact, its leaders often hold a great disdain and in some cases a deep abiding hatred for other established faiths. 

Pastor Mark Holick illustrates this well. Holick is one of the key backers of the “pro-life memorial” being planned for Wichita, Kansas. He makes no bones about the fact that he really hates Muslims. He even thinks President Obama is a Muslim:

In fact, Mark Holick was arrested at and then banned from the Islamic Society of Wichita. Holick makes the following statement from the pulpit of his church in this video:

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This thing called Islam?  Straight from hell.  They do not believe Jesus was raised from the dead and they do not believe he is God.

Thing is… a number of religious traditions do not hold that Jesus was raised from the dead and that Jesus is not God, including Judaism. That hasn’t stopped Holick and his fellow pro-life memorial planners from including an “exact replica in his plans for a “pro-life” memorial of the Wailing Wall at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.” In an interview with Rewire, Kansas City Rabbi, Douglas Alpert, called the planned memorial and replica ”morally repugnant.” Rabbit Alpert went on to say, “Their co-opting of an important Jewish symbol is insulting.” 

Wichita’s “pro-life memorial” will also include 60 crosses “symbolizing 60 million abortions” and will be a part of the same memorial as the Jewish Wailing Wall replica. There is an obvious disconnect within their symbolism, and when asked directly by a local reporter if this was a Christian or an interfaith effort, the memorial organizers stated, quite definitively that it was a Christian memorial. It seems like the organizers don’t want to be welcoming to Jews, but are just fine stealing their faith’s sacred symbols from and using their historical suffering toward anti-choice political ends. 

The radical anti-choice movement has long incorporated a “holocaust theme” within its rhetoric and lore. It is offensive to many people within the Jewish community. The use of the holocaust theme in the anti-choice film “180” prompted the following statement from a Holocaust survivor:

The film is a perverse attempt to make a case against abortion in America through the cynical abuse of the memory of those killed in the Holocaust,” said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor. “Not only does the film try to assert a moral equivalency between the Holocaust and abortion, but it also brings Jews and Jewish history into the discussion and then calls on its viewers to repent and accept Jesus as their savior.

In an interview with Rewire one pro-choice Jewish woman stated, “The Jewish faith is by and large pro-choice and the continuous use of the holocaust in the promotion of their terrorism is despicable. The termination of a pregnancy, representing the “unborn” is not the same as the slaughter of millions of living people.”

Thus the builders of the “memorial” are taking their movement’s holocaust theme to an all-new level of offensiveness by using the Holocaust to promote an agenda that runs counter to the teachings of Judaism on many levels. This disconnect was articulated just this week by Michigan’s Representative Lisa Brown, who spoke about her faith, religious freedom, and women’s health.

The following is transcribed from a the video of a Michigan House debate that took place this week surrounding a sweeping anti-choice bill, that bans all abortions after 20 weeks with no exception for the health of the woman. 

“Yesterday we heard the Representative from Holland speak about religious freedom, I’m Jewish.   Judaism believes that therapeutic abortions, abortions performed to save the life of the mother are not only permissible, but mandatory the stage of pregnancy does not matter.  Whenever there is a question of the life of the mother or that of the unborn child Jewish law rules in favor of preserving the life of the mother.  The status of the fetus as human life does not equal that of the mother.  I have not asked you to adhere to my religious beliefs, why are you asking me to adopt yours?”

Rabbi Alpert agreed wholeheartedly with Rep Brown’s statement. He went on to say:

Any legislation that fails to make an exception for the health of the mother is clearly in opposition to Jewish law. I would never deny Catholics or any other religion the basis of their faith, but I don’t want anyone to force their perspectives onto me.  That is where the ultimate obstacle toward agreement will never be overcome. 

There is a lot of talk of religious freedom in national Affordable Care Act contraception debate and in red state political debate, but the complete disregard for non-Christian faiths is often disparagingly apparent in the political world. 

One example of Christian political pandering was exhibited this year during a Kansas state capitol ceremony held on the “National Day of Prayer.” Non-Christian groups were not included in this ceremony, but Jewish tradition and symbols were appropriated for the purposes of the event. From the Topeka Capitol-Journal…

At one point, the Rev. Earl Pickard, the director of the Campus Crusade for Christ Ministry Prayerworks, blew into a shofar — a ram’s horn used for Jewish religious purposes — before offering a prayer for Israel in both Hebrew and English.  “For Zion’s sake, we will not be quiet,” he said. “For Jerusalem, we will not be silent.”

He concluded the prayer in the name of “the Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Rabbi Debbie Stiel, of Temple Beth Sholom in Topeka, said her synagogue wasn’t invited to participate in Thursday’s event, which fits an ongoing pattern at the Capitol.

“It’s frustrating to us as a Jewish community that things that are done at our Statehouse are often not very interfaith,” she said. “The prayers offered in the chambers are often clearly done in a Christian perspective. The Day of Prayer should be something everyone can participate in.” Stiel said legislators should make more efforts to “build bridges” between people of different faiths.

The hijacking of Jewish monuments, symbolism and history would indicate that bridge burning is more the style of the anti-choice movement in Kansas. 

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