Skip To Content
Fast Forward

Supreme Court declines to hear 2 different attempts to stop longtime Ann Arbor synagogue protesters

Protesters have gathered weekly outside an Ann Arbor synagogue for nearly two decades holding anti-Israel and antisemitic signs.

ANN ARBOR, Michigan (JTA) – The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear two different requests to take up a suit against a group of protesters who have gathered weekly outside an Ann Arbor synagogue for nearly two decades holding anti-Israel and antisemitic signs, seemingly closing off any remaining legal avenues against the long-running display.

The court issued orders in March and May denying petitions brought by two different congregants who had argued that the protests targeted Jews at their place of worship, violating their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion.

The plaintiffs belong to two different congregations that both meet in the same synagogue building: Conservative Beth Israel Congregation and the Jewish Renewal-affiliated Pardes Hannah Congregation. Neither congregation was involved in the lawsuits.

The two congregants, one of whom is a Holocaust survivor, had first brought a joint lawsuit against the protesters, the city and Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor in 2019. Lower courts dismissed it on First Amendment grounds, and a judge ordered the plaintiffs to pay the protesters’ legal fees. Following a dispute between one of the plaintiffs, Marvin Gerber, and their attorney, Marc Susselman, the suit was broken up and two separate petitions under two separate attorneys were filed to the Supreme Court. 

Both of those petitions have now been declined; Gerber’s was rejected most recently, on May 16.

Gerber had retained the well-known Jewish attorney Nathan Lewin, a veteran of the Supreme Court who has argued multiple Jewish-interest cases and who was a close friend of former Justice Antonin Scalia.

“I am shocked and dismayed that the Supreme Court and the court of appeals view antisemitic picketing timed and designed to harass and intimidate Jews only when they come to pray — clearly protected by the First Amendment’s Religion Clause — as free speech that may not be curtailed,” Lewin told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 

He compared the case to a law that makes it a federal crime to protest or picket near a judge’s residence in order to influence a decision — a law that has been in the news lately as abortion rights protesters upset with a leaked Supreme Court draft appearing to overturn Roe v. Wade have protested outside the homes of conservative justices.

Jewish groups, including Agudath Israel of America, the Rabbinical Council of America and the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Henry Herskovitz, the lead defendant and a regular presence at the weekly protests since their origins in 2003, told JTA that his group (identified in court documents as “Jewish Witnesses for Peace”) was “grateful” for the ruling, saying, “Freedom of expression is the bedrock principle of a democracy.”

Earlier this year, the Ann Arbor City Council issued a formal resolution condemning the protests as antisemitic. The protesters, who claim they are opposed to Israeli policy, have held signs with messages including “Jewish Power Corrupts” and “Resist Jewish Power.”

This article originally appeared on

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.