The Battle of the Billboards
The Rebbe billboard reminded me that there is still holiness in the world, and it outweighs the darkness.
Every day, when I pick up my daughters from daycare in my Pico-Robertson neighborhood, I pass by a disgusting billboard that sits right on top of a yeshiva. On the billboard, a scantily dressed woman is posing in a very suggestive position. She has scary makeup on and piercings all over her body. The billboard is advertising the television show “American Horror Story,” and she is obviously some kind of sensuous murderer.
“Mommy, look!” my 3-year-old daughter said to me one day after noticing the billboard. “Scary lady.”
I was hoping my daughter wouldn’t see it, but she did. I responded, “Yes, she is very scary. Don’t look.”
I thought, this is Los Angeles, where many of the billboards feature immodestly dressed people or ads for drugs or casinos or other things that children shouldn’t see. I expect that.
But this was taking it to a whole new level. The fact that it was on top of a yeshiva, a holy place of learning, where young, impressionable boys do mitzvot all day long, I was appalled.
Even though I’m a religious person, I don’t think anyone should have to see this billboard – religious or not. I’m sure it scares secular people, too.
One time, when I was in a very dark place in my life, I tuned into “American Horror Story” to see what all the fuss was about. I wish I never had. I saw so many disturbing and twisted images that I will never be able to erase from my brain.
I’m no prude; I’m married to a standup comedian, and I’ve heard lots and lots of revolting jokes from other comedians over the years. People have the right to create any kind of art they want. I don’t believe in cancelation.
But I also don’t think that innocent children or parents driving their kids to school or people going to the office should have to see this. Let the sickos seek it out for themselves. Don’t subject all of us to your depravity.
This past Sukkot, I was walking with my husband Daniel and daughters to our friend’s house for a meal. We were about to pass the billboard.
“Ugh,” I whispered. “I hope it’s not there anymore.”
Sadly, I could spot it in the distance.
“Let’s turn onto another street before we get to it,” I told Daniel. “I don’t want the girls to see it.”
But then, I saw something else. What was that? It couldn’t be.
It was the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s wonderful, smiling face on a huge billboard. The text next to him said, “Moshiach is here. Just add in goodness and kindness.” There was also a line about the Rebbe being messiah, which I don’t believe, and most Chabadniks don’t, either.
I can put that line aside if it means that I’m seeing the Rebbe every day on my way to pickup. Whenever I see a photo of him, I feel his warmth. Going to a Chabad dinner made me want to convert to Judaism, and Chabadniks bring so much light into this world and are some of my favorite people on the planet.
The Rebbe billboard reminded me that there is still holiness in the world, and it outweighs the darkness. We don’t have to let outside forces come in and try to taint the holiness of our beloved neighborhood. We have more power than we think.
Most people, including non-religious Jews, will have no idea what this billboard means. But maybe they will see a kind old man and think, “Hey, he has a nice smile.” Maybe they will Google him and learn more about him and become inspired. I know that I certainly am.
Kylie Ora Lobell is the Community Editor of the Jewish Journal.