This post is partly a rant and partly a request for advice:
I live in the most Orthodox neighborhood of Metro Detroit. While I am not Chareidi and I do not “dress the part”, most of my neighbors are and do.
Of the hundreds of Jews in my neighborhood, more than 90% of them dress in a way that marks them as obviously Jewish. Sadly, this has historically made them easy targets for evangelists and antisemites.
Today, on Shabbos, two Christians (who drove a vehicle with Kansas license plates and carried Westboro Baptist Church-style gear) stood at one of my neighborhood’s main intersections. They carried signs, waved flags, handed out tracts, and used a bullhorn to specifically target Jews who were walking home from shul.
I couldn’t help but confront the street preachers, but had the unfortunate experience of knowing exactly the right things to say after they had already left the neighborhood. (It was a “jerk store” moment, for those of you – like u/IbnEzra613 – who enjoy Seinfeld.)
I brought up so many things to them: the recent increase in antisemitic incidents, the fact that today was the Sabbath, the inappropriateness of targeting Jews specifically…
After being lied to, questioned about my sins, and told I was going to hell, I lost my temper. I used language I shouldn’t have (which shocked the female street preacher for a brief moment), told her that she worshiped three gods while I was on my way home from worshiping the One God, and called her a liar (after she had claimed she’d “love it” if people protested against her church) while reminding her that lying was a sin in Christianity.
The worst part of it was knowing that no matter what I had said, it would have been interpreted as a “win” by the street preachers. My anger towards them surely made them delight in being “persecuted for Christ”, and I’m sorry to say that the experience made me agitated for the rest of Shabbos.
Walking away from the confrontation, I felt foolish. I knew I could have handled things better, and perhaps even ignored these jerks. The hot weather, though, combined with the preachers’ lies and antisemitic targeting, made for a very frustrated DetroitYiddenAgain. I allowed my emotions to get the better of me.
To be frank, I don’t know how to handle this stuff in the future. It feels awful knowing that my existence as a Jew in public makes me a target, and that I’ll be judged (and possibly recorded and published) if I lose my cool.
What should I do next time?