An atheist organization is planning to place Hebrew billboards in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Williamsburg, N.Y., calling God a “myth.”
The billboard writes out the name of God in Hebrew, and then addresses readers, proclaiming, “You know it’s a myth … and you have a choice,” in both Hebrew and English.
The group, American Atheists, is also introducing similar billboards in Arabic in the heavily Muslim community of Paterson, N.J.
Dave Silverman, president of the organization, told CNN last week that, “If there are atheists in those communities, we are reaching out to them. We are letting them know that we see them, we acknowledge them and they don't have to live that way if they don’t want to.”
“People are going to be upset,” he said. “That is not our concern.”
Jews living in the area are expected to consider the ads particularly offensive due to the use of the name of God.
“It is an emotional word, there will be an emotional response," said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of Yeshiva University's Center for the Jewish Future. "People will look at it in a bizarre way. People won’t understand why someone needed to write that out.”
Rabbi Serge Lippe of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, a Reform congregation, was more dismissive than outraged about the billboards and said that the “great thing about America is we are marketplace for ideas. People put up awful, inappropriate billboards expressing their ideas and that is embraced.”
“But Lippe acknowledged that there are a lot of agnostic and atheist Jews. A recent Gallup survey found 53% of Jews identified as nonreligious. Among American Jews, 17% identified as very religious and 30% identified as moderately religious,” CNN reported.
“When you have two Jews in the room, you have three opinions,” Lippe joked.