October 29, 2018

Solidarity With Winston-Salem’s Jewish Community

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Saturday’s massacre at a Jewish Synagogue in Pittsburgh was genuinely terrible. I hate to see another mass shooting occur. But they keep happening with increasing frequency, each time, bring up the same feelings of despair and hopelessness among us.

Of course, America has always been a violent nation. It was forged with the twin evils of genocidal land appropriation from Native Americans and the labor of enslaved African Americans. We have some things to be proud of in our nation’s past, such as Jazz. But America was never great, morally speaking. We need to stop waging wars abroad. Today, the weapons of war, AR-15’s, are killing us here at home.

The Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre is another sign that something is deeply wrong with our country. The attack was motivated by anti-Semitism, it was the work of a fascist.

I must admit, I never really understood anti-Semitism. It’s irrational to blame Jews for the country’s problems. Just like it’s ridiculous to blame Jews for Jesus’ death. Scapegoating Jews isn’t going to solve anything. It’s the refuge of men (they’re usually men) who are unwilling or unable to honestly critic the world as it is.

Winston has a relatively modest-sized Jewish community that dates back over 85 years now. Temple Emanuel, the epicenter of Winston’s Jewish community is located a short distance from Thruway Shopping Center.

In 2007, Temple Emanuel released a short work chronicling their then 75 years in Winston. It’s a good read, a necessary reminder that Jews have played a relatively small, but important role in the development of Winston. From factory workers and shopkeepers decades ago to professionals today, Winston is a better place because of the contributions of our Jewish brothers and sisters.

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Growing up in an Evangelical church just outside of Winston, I must admit, I barely knew anyone who was Jewish when I was young. My introduction to Jews was largely through the Bible. My knowledge was minimal and very incomplete.

In the mid to late 1980s, my mom was represented by David Freedman in a divorce case. Mr. Freedman impressed me as a friendly attorney. I have since learned that David Freedman is a prominent member of Temple Emanuel and defense attorney, highly respected throughout the state.

Through the Winston-Salem Journal, I learned a few years ago that another prominent local attorney, who attended Temple Emanuel and has since deceased was a long-time attorney at R.J. Reynolds. I find that to be very hypocritical. I’m not sure how someone can be a pillar of the community and work for an infamous member of Big Tobacco.

But, throughout my years in Protestant churches, I’ve seen my share of hypocrisy. I suppose every religion has its share.

The only conspiracy that Winston’s local Jewish community is responsible for, to my knowledge is a conspiracy to provide good bagels to the people of Winston. I thank them for their efforts. The Bagel Station is a Winston-Salem institution.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all trace their history back to the same Abrahamic roots. Anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia are both unacceptable and abhorrent. Minority populations make our city and our nation more dynamic. They should be embraced. The Tree of Life synagogue massacre should encourage us all to try to promote peace and resist the toxic politics of the right.







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