Rabbi Linda Holtzman, who has made a career of liberal activism, ventured into new territory when she scampered across Broad Street in North Philadelphia to slap a black-and-yellow sticker on the back of Adolf Hitler's head.
Hitler is featured in an anti-Islam ad displayed on SEPTA buses this month, and Holtzman and other Jewish activists have launched a campaign of guerrilla protest.
They are pasting stickers that are a parody of SEPTA's own "Dude, It's Rude" pro-civility ad campaign onto the anti-Islam ads: "Dude It's Rude . . . Hate Speech - Really?"
"It's our Jewish obligation to stand up and acknowledge there is oppression in our society and act on the behalf of our friends and neighbors," Holtzman said Tuesday. "Muslims are faced with deep prejudice. For us not to speak feels like a deep disgrace."
She and a loose coalition of activists say they have been stickering the bus ads almost since the provocative images began appearing a month ago, after a federal court ruling that SEPTA had to accept the ads.
SEPTA was aware of only two such stickers, spokeswoman Jerri Williams said Tuesday.
The anti-Islam ads will soon come down, as the monthlong, $30,000 advertising contract expires at the end of this week, Williams said.
The ads, which read, "Islamic Jew-Hatred: It's in the Quran," were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an organization underwritten by a Jewish activist, Pamela Geller, an outspoken critic of Islam.
The ads feature a photograph of a 1941 meeting between Hitler and Hajj Amin al-Husseini, a Palestinian Arab nationalist who made radio broadcasts supporting the Nazis.
SEPTA had refused to accept the ads, but U.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg ruled March 11 that because SEPTA had accepted other political and controversial ads on public issues, it could not refuse to accept the Hitler ad.
SEPTA officials said on March 26 they would not appeal the ruling and said they had tightened the agency's advertising standards to legally prohibit such ads in the future.
Holtzman, 62, is on the faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote and has been active in campaigns against gun violence, for Palestinian rights, for immigrants, and for a higher minimum wage. She said she was disappointed by the lack of reaction to the Hitler ads.
"I would support other actions, like marching at the bus depots," she said. "If these ads just become part of the accepted background of what it means to live in America, that feels awful to me."
The ads will start coming down Friday, Williams said, and virtually all will be removed by Monday. The ads have been on 84 buses.
New advertising has been sold to take the place of the Hitler ads, Williams said.