Resource Center Dallas raised more than twice its goal and the Dallas Holocaust Museum set attendance records in response to a visit by the Fred Phelps clan.
The Phelps clan from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., began their tour of Dallas with a group of 17, half of them children, in downtown Dallas outside the Holocaust Museum. Every time they began to sing songs mocking the Holocaust, the counterprotesters and passing DART trains drowned them out.
Once the Phelps clan left for their next picket at the Jewish Community Center, most of the counterprotesters toured the museum. According to museum president and CEO Alice Murray, they set an attendance record.
Although Holocaust survivors were asked to stay home rather than be subjected to the Phelpses’ hatred, two came to deliver the message that they had lived through a lot worse than a few stupid signs. Survivor Max Glauben spoke to a standing-room-only audience about his war experiences. Survivor Mike Jacobs sold his book and walked through the exhibit chatting with visitors.
At the Jewish Community Center, counterprotesters blocked the view so children inside wouldn’t see the hate-filled signs. Yavneh Academy, another stop, was closed for the day. The Texas Jewish Post newspaper office, also picketed, is on the sixth floor of an office building set back from Beltline Road across a wide parking lot. The newspaper was not disturbed.
The Phelps clan’s final stop was Resource Center Dallas, where they were protesting Congregation Beth El Binah. The picketers were greeted by 350 counterprotesters. Most were carrying nonsensical signs to taunt the Phelps group.
Before the Phelps clan’s arrival, volunteers chalked the sidewalk across from the center in rainbow stripes and arranged with police that the rainbow-striped sidewalk would be the only place where the Phelpses would be allowed to stand.
Before the clan arrived, the Resource Center had already collected about $5,000 in donations from around the country for “Hell Freezes Over,” a counterprotest fundraiser. Despite a downpour, another $2,700 was raised during the 30 minutes the Phelps clan picketed. The fundraiser had a goal of $3,100 for a new ice maker for RCD’s nutrition program for low-income people with HIV/AIDS.
Rafael McDonnell of Resource Center Dallas said the brakes on the food pantry’s van had just gone out, so some of the additional money would be used for that repair. He joked that he hoped the Phelps clan would return soon.
Congregation Congregation Beth El Binah president Diane Litke said they’d an attendance record for a July Shabbat service and were delighted to have helped the center raise that much money.
Murray said the museum collected a number of donations and gained new memberships. But she said the day was really about promoting tolerance.