In 1958, the reform synagogue known as The Temple in Atlanta was bombed. It was a hate crime against Jews and the lead Rabbi who was outspoken about civil rights.
The Temple was rebuilt and I grew up in it and in that history.
If the bombing was a warning to create fear and to stay quiet, it had the opposite effect. Our congregation was committed to civil rights, to the message of Martin Luther King in the midst of the worst violence and hate speech spewed by anti-Semitic politicians in the 60’s. Our Rabbi, Dr. Jacob Rothschild befriended Dr. King.
And then change came.
Not overnight but we saw a change; a dramatic change in the understanding of what was right and wrong in this country, especially in the Deep South.
I hadn’t thought about this history and my history within it, in a long time.
And my first thought was, we’ve gone back; we’re back where we started.
Our country has learned nothing from our history. We’ve let evil and hate and fear divide us. Words that matter have inspired those most vulnerable to messages of hate and violence and conspiracy theories to act. Easy accessibility to high power weapons of war is in this toxic mix.
For the first time in several years, I went to synagogue, joining thousands of others seeking comfort and feeling the need to do something, pray maybe?
I heard from Christians, Muslims, Jews, black, brown, white, immigrants, LGBQT, messages of hope.
I was reminded, people like me, who have quietly worried and talked with friends about the growing hate against “the other”, have to be more vocal, correct conspiracy theories and remind our friends and relatives about the facts.
I went back to look up the history of the Temple my family belonged to in Atlanta, I happened to see Rabbi Rothschild, the outspoken supporter of civil rights, grew up in Pittsburgh in the same community where the bombing happened. His beliefs about the rights of individuals, all of us, were born and fostered in this same Jewish community that has been attacked.
I wonder what he’d think of this?
I’d assume he wouldn’t be surprised. I think he’d say when we are quiet, when we acquiesce, when we are complacent about the hate we see around us we become part of the problem.
We can not be silent.
We must join with others in peaceful protest and make it clear in our every day conversations we will not tolerate hate. We must remind each other Words DO Matter and we are NOT going back.