US Judge orders Jewish victims to pay $159,000 to antisemites

Judge orders $159K payday for antisemitic synagogue harassers, victims ordered to pay their legal fees. Case could go to Supreme Court.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

A Michigan district court judge ordered several synagogue members, including a Holocaust survivor, to pay some $159,000 in legal fees for antisemitic protesters who regularly demonstrate outside the Jewish house of worship, ruling that a lawsuit filed by the congregants attempting to stop the ongoing harassment was meritless and frivolous.

Since 2003, antisemitic and anti-Israel protesters have gathered outside of the Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor, intentionally timing their demonstrations to align with Shabbat services in order to disturb and accost worshippers on the Jewish day of rest.

In 2019, plaintiffs Marvin Gerber and Miriam Brysk, who is a Holocaust survivor, filed a lawsuit against the city and the protesters, arguing that the protests infringe upon their First Amendment right to worship freely.

Because protesters regularly confront congregants and hold signs bearing antisemitic messages, while yelling antisemitc phrases at worshippers, the plaintiffs said that the protests go beyond freedom of speech — amounting to intimidation and harassment, as individual Jews are targeted.

“One could colorably [sic] argue that signs that say ‘Jewish Power Corrupts’ and ‘No More Holocaust Movies’ directly outside a synagogue attended by Holocaust survivors and timed to coincide with their service are more directed at the private congregants than designed to speak out about matters of public concern,” acknowledged Judge Victoria Roberts.

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Despite this finding, Roberts said that because the protests take place on a public sidewalk, the plaintiffs have no basis for trying to stop them and are therefore responsible for paying $159,000 in legal fees for the demonstrators.

She categorized the lawsuit as a meritless, baseless attempt to “silence” the protesters, and in an unusual move, singled out the plaintiffs’ attorney, Marc Susselman, ordering that he also pay damages to the demonstrators.

Roberts wrote that as an attorney, Susselman should have known better than to pursue “frivolous” claims against the demonstrators and that he must also be held personally liable for financial damages.

Susselman said he is planning to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.