View PDF version

Another excerpt from the soon-to-be-finished biography of Moishe Rosen…

On one corner over Big Al’s Place, a sign depicted a twenties-type Gangland figure with machine gun in hand. While liquor was perfectly legal, porno businesses thrived on the illusion that they could provide some forbidden pleasure. And that is why, across the street from Big Al’s, a place calling itself The Garden of Eden featured one of the most prominent signs on the strip: a voluptuous figure of a naked woman, a palm tree and a leering serpent—all promising “a taste of Paradise.”

Now Moishe was no crusader and he didn’t feel it was his place to try shutting down all the sex shops in the city. His calling was to point to Jesus as the solution to sin for Jews and Gentiles. So he wasn’t so much railing against those who were “selling” sin as he was pointing out that God was freely offering forgiveness, reconciliation and a better way to find fulfillment.

Nevertheless, this sign and the name of the club, The Garden of Eden, galled him. To trade on the Bible as a ploy for advertising cheap thrills was deplorable. Worse was the inference that the road to Paradise was paved with lewdness. This greedy and godless exploitation of humanity’s fall from innocence epitomized the whole North Beach scene. And it made the Garden of Eden the most obvious place to stage a gospel demonstration.

Moishe was leading a group of twenty or so demonstrators clad in denim jackets embroidered with “Jesus Made Me Kosher,” and “Jews for Jesus.” About half the group carried colorful, hand-calligraphed placards with slogans such as “God’s Love Lasts” “Love Not Lust” and “Jesus is Coming Again.” They crossed the street to the Garden of Eden and quickly formed a tight oval.

“Get them started with ‘love not lust,’” Moishe said to Baruch Goldstein, who nodded his assent as he stood at one end of the circle. Meanwhile, Moishe had joined the picketers.

“Okay, keep moving,” Goldstein said, as people raised their signs and began to march. “Stay close together, keep moving, and get ready to chant ‘love not lust…‘“

After a few moments of silence, someone—it might have been Moishe or it might have been Baruch—called out loudly, “LOVE NOT LUST” and the group joined in the rhythmic chant…

Many passersby stopped to stare at the group. One drunk tried to join the line, waving his arms in an effort to commandeer the crowd’s attention, but the circle was tight and required more effort and coordination than he could muster to be part of it.

One of the barkers swore under his breath. A woman pulled him aside and seemed to be having a private conference with him. Then suddenly she stepped up to the picketers and screamed, “That’s my religion you’re ridiculing!” Shouting a stream of obscenities, she began alternately trying to tear up the placards and kicking several of the girls in the group. Finally, she pulled out a pair of scissors and started stabbing at some of the marchers…

… Moishe sent Bruce Skoropinski, one of the group leaders, to get the police. At this point, the attacker was focusing her rage on a young woman who was holding a placard that proclaimed: GOD LOVES YOU!

Moishe grabbed the placard in an attempt to redirect the woman’s fury. He was successful; she turned away from the younger woman and tried stabbing Moishe’s arm repeatedly, but the thick denim sleeves protected him. At last she succeeded in inflicting a deep wound on his right hand…

Moishe tried not to notice how the blood was streaming down from his arm—he held it up high, hoping that would slow the bleeding, not even realizing that the blood from his raised hand together with the sign proclaiming God’s love appeared highly symbolic, if not heroic, in this context… He continued to picket for as long as he could, bloody hand still held high, but was scheduled for a radio interview that night.

[He] had one final request for those who stayed behind: “Do one thing for me. Demonstrate here an hour longer than we usually would, to show them that a little blood’s not going to stop us.”