Fw: fwd: synagogues torched in Sacramento

Peggy Bonnington bonnipeg at sprynet.com
Sat Jul 24 00:35:29 JEST 1999

This is lengthy, but I thought worth reading / sharing.

-----Original Message-----

><jhminshall at mindspring.com> wrote:
>> Hi Fns,  I received this from the former Maxine Nunn whom some of you
>> remember from the Jewish/Quaker Dialogue at FGC some years ago.  She is a
>> Jewish Friend who spent years working for peace in Israel and was
>> accepted by the Knesset as both Jewish and Quaker for the purposes of
>> citizenship.
>>                          Best Regards,  Janet Minshall
>> >From: Maxine Nunn <MaxineKaufman_Lacusta at compuserve.com>
>> >Subject: fwd: synagogues torched in Sacramento
>> >Date: Mon, 28 Jun 1999 21:50:39 -0700
>> >Reply-To: jewishfriends at topica.com
>> >MIME-Version:  1.0
>> >X-Loop: 2000000992
>> >
>> >Reforwarded by Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta
>> >---------- Forwarded Message ----------
>> >DATE:   25/06/99 21:10
>> >
>> >
>> >I have long said that book publishers are the "keepers of the culture."
>> >And I have long held (although not in public) that the Jews are the
>> >mothers and fathers of the culture.
>> >
>> >I'm sure that most of you have heard about how three synagogues in my
>> >home of Sacramento, CA were firebombed early Friday morning and perhaps
>> >you have heard about the pains of despair that so many Jews around the
>> >country are feeling. And, of course, these feelings run even stronger
>> >among those of us who are members of one of the temples.
>> >
>> >I have been a member of Congregation B'nai Israel for the past 17 years.
>> >This is our 150th anniversary. We are the oldest congregation West of
>> >the Mississippi.
>> >
>> >All day yesterday members of our temple (as Jewish congregations go,
>> >we're on the large side with 900 families) phoned each other seeking
>> >news about how bad it really was, etc. since we were not allowed
>> >anywhere near the site.
>> >
>> >Was this the beginning of another reign of terror for us? Was this
>> >another Kristalnacht?
>> >
>> >We talked about how this could happen in America? What have we done? Why
>> >do they (still) hate us so much? Aren't we good members of the
>> >community? We volunteer for local services and donate funds to good
>> >civic causes. All we ask is to be allowed to worship the way we wish and
>> >to be allowed to keep our culture alive in our own homes and temples. We
>> >don't seek converts. It is not a "we're better than you are," or "God
>> >loves us more than you." All we ask is that we be allowed to live in
>> >peace, brotherhood, and safety within the dominant Christian community.
>> >We don't want to bother or threaten the dominant community. Just allow
>> >us to "to be." Is that so hard?
>> >
>> >And on one night, in my hometown, they firebombed three of our temples.
>> >Not in New York, or L.A. But here.
>> >
>> >They must live here. Who would come in from out of town to our small
>> >city and our small Jewish congregation? It must be local people, and if
>> >so, why? We don't bother anyone.
>> >
>> >We heard via our phone tree as well as the local media, that our weekly
>> >Friday Sabbath service would be held in the 2,000 seat Community
>> >Theatre.
>> >
>> >I wasn't going to go at first. I'm not religious and don't often go to
>> >Friday night services. However I thought that someone should be there to
>> >"stand up" to the terrorists who would attempt to rend and destroy us.
>> >
>> >Even though it was announced that everyone (Jew/non-Jew) was invited
>> >(this is normal for Reform congregations) I figured that there would
>> >only be 150 or 250 people there, enough to fill up a few rows in the
>> >huge theatre, which has two balconies.
>> >
>> >When I arrived I was totally surprised. Eighteen hundred people from all
>> >over our community, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, Hare Krishna's, and
>> >members from every sect of the Protestant community was there. There
>> >were members from black churches, gay churches, Asian churches, as well
>> >as atheists, agnostics, and some of the followers of so-called "new age"
>> >spiritual leaders. There were ministers, bishops, city council members,
>> >the police chief, the FBI, ATF, and representatives from the state
>> >legislature and governors office.  Never have I seen such an outpouring
>> >of grief and concern from the community... for Jews.
>> >
>> >One of the most touching groups was the Methodists. It seems they were
>> >having a large convention here in Sacramento. And when they heard about
>> >the bombings, many decided they wanted to pray with us. And so there
>> >were hundreds of them all wearing their convention badges. And they
>> >circulated through the waiting crowd explaining who they were and why
>> >they were there. What a wonderfully kind thing to do.
>> >
>> >A Reform Jewish Friday night service is not what you might expect. It is
>> >not solemn and "dignified." It is the "Celebration of the Sabbath" where
>> >workday thoughts are put aside and the hearts of the parents turn toward
>> >the children and the hearts of the children turn to the parents.  We
>> >sing, clap hands, say prayers, listen to the Rabbi and Cantor banter
>> >with each other, and of course hear a sermon, often filled with humor.
>> >It is a happy service... and usually short.
>> >
>> >But who could be happy? Our house of worship had been torched. Our
>> >entire library of 5,000 books was gone. Yet our Rabbi told us that we
>> >must persevere and that to not celebrate the Sabbath would be exactly
>> >what the terrorists would hope to achieve. And so we went on with our
>> >service.
>> >
>> >There were a number of speakers from our congregation and from the
>> >community. All were inspirational and devoid of the kind of sorrow,
>> >sadness, grief, or anger that you might expect.
>> >
>> >Our previous Rabbi, now retired, who served us for 22 years, flew in
>> >from Phoenix and reminded us that "we are the JEWISH people and that we
>> >have always survived and we will survive this as well."
>> >
>> >And we were putting on a brave front. We laughed, we sang, we applauded,
>> >we said the ancient prayers. We held up the best we could.
>> >
>> >Then something happened that I will never forget. Seated on the bema
>> >were a number of our Temple's officers, as well as some of the
>> >"dignitaries" from the city. There was one very attractive blonde woman
>> >whom no one seemed to recognize. I heard the "buzz" of "who is that
>> >woman and why is she there." Toward the middle of the service our Rabbi
>> >said he wanted to introduce us to a Rev. Faith Whitmore and she got up
>> >and went to the podium. She was either the local, or regional head of
>> >the United Methodist Church, who was having their convention. And she
>> >spoke briefly about how appalled she was and her brethren were about
>> >these incidents. We've heard it before. From the Pope on down, all
>> >through the years its been "Gee, sorry for the Holocaust but there's
>> >nothing I could have done about it."
>> >
>> >She reached into her suit coat and took out a piece of paper. "I want
>> >you to know that this afternoon we took a special offering of our
>> >members to help you rebuild your temple and we want you to have this
>> >check for six thousand dollars." For two seconds there was absolute dead
>> >quiet. We were astounded. Did we hear this correctly? Christians are
>> >going to do this? On the third second the hall shook with a thunderous
>> >applause. I've never heard applause like that before. And it went on for
>> >two minutes. And then people broke into tears. Me too. It was like all
>> >of the emotion of the day and evening poured out in those few minutes.
>> >
>> >Those in my parent's generation were dumbfounded. Who ever heard of
>> >Gentiles caring about Jews? The idea of a Gentile coming up to a Jew and
>> >saying "I want you to know how sorry I am" was beyond the ability of
>> >many of our members to cope. And I have to admit that I too, the old
>> >curmudgeon that I am, felt so much emotional gratitude for these lovely
>> >people, who were not even part of our community or city.
>> >
>> >As Rev. Whitmore gave the check to the Rabbi and hugged him, it was one
>> >of the most emotional moments I've ever been witness to. In my entire
>> >lifetime I've never known an organized Christian denomination to
>> >officially do anything "nice" for a Jewish congregation. Our
>> >congregation, some 1100 of us stood with tears in our eyes. Christians
>> >who for centuries sent the Cossacks to pillage our towns, who put us
>> >through their Inquisitions, who burned us at the stake as heretics, who
>> >expelled us from their countries, who locked us away in tiny shtetls,
>> >who eagerly turned us into the Nazi SS, and who ran the trains, who
>> >produced the poison gas, or just "knew" about the greatest human tragedy
>> >of this century.... were doing something good for a Jew. Nothing in my
>> >life prepared me for that. It's one thing to say "I'm sorry, it's too
>> >bad," but it is quite another to put $6,000 behind it and not even be
>> >from the community!!!  When this is all behind me, I'm going to find out
>> >who the head Methodist deacon, pope, minister, or whatever he/she is
>> >called, get the address and write a warm thank-you letter... as will
>> >every member of our congregation.
>> >
>> >The evening closed with a final hymn and we all went home feeling a bit
>> >better.
>> >
>> >It didn't really hit me until this afternoon when I drove down to the
>> >temple (about 20 miles from my home) and saw the charred remains of the
>> >library wing. The place was swarming with ATF, FBI and other agents,
>> >collecting materials for the investigations. One ATF agent said that
>> >this is being classified as an "act of domestic terrorism" and has been
>> >given the highest priority. When you see the destruction of something
>> >that was "yours," something you helped build, and something you were
>> >proud of, it hits you. The depression is awesome. It is just awesome.
>> >
>> >Why here? Why us? Why me? I'm sure there are answers, but I don't have
>> >them at the moment. The only answer I do have is that we must pick
>> >ourselves up as a congregation and community (there were two other
>> >temples also heavily damaged) and move on. They can't beat us. We ARE
>> >the Jewish people. We were here 5,000 years ago, and we will be here
>> >5,000 years from today.
>> >
>> >We lost our ENTIRE 5,000 volume library. It saw it. It was soot. Not
>> >even a page remained. Nothing.
>> >
>> >It was a wonderful library of Jewish oriented books and films. It was a
>> >treasure of our congregation and it was used by hundreds of our members,
>> >especially the young people. In our community, mothers took their
>> >children to the Temple library as much as they took their children to
>> >the public library. It was part of "what we do."  Our books and videos
>> >were one of the ways we "socialized" our young people into our culture.
>> >And it works. We don't have a very high incidence of crime, substance
>> >abuse, or academic problems with our young people. We expect a lot from
>> >them and we make sure they have the tools and opportunities not to
>> >disappoint us.
>> >
>> >If you could find it in your heart to send a check for a dollar or two
>> >(five, ten, or whatever is in your heart) for our library fund, it would
>> >be a mtizvah. I told our Rabbi that I would
>> >ask every publisher in America for a small contribution. You probably
>> >won't get any recognition or even a formal thank-you. But if this is
>> >something you could do, please make out a check to Congregation B'nai
>> >Israel and send it to me at
>> >
>> >Adams-Blake Publishing
>> >8041 Sierra Street
>> >Fair Oaks, CA 95628.
>> >
>> >I will see that it gets to the right people.
>> >
>> >One final request.  Would all of you post this to any other private
>> >lists you are on?
>> >
>> >They have not beaten us.
>> >
>> >As our Torah teaches us..."And this too shall pass."
>> >
>> >
>> >Topica. Home to The World's Best Email Lists.  http://www.topica.com/t/1
>> >
>Nancy M. Whitt
>Professor of English
>Chair, Department of English
>Samford University
>Birmingham, AL 35229
>Phone: 205-726-2458 Fax: 205-726-2112 E-mail: nmwhitt at samford.edu
>"Do I contradict myself?
>Very well then I contradict myself,
>(I am large, I contain multitudes.)"
>      Walt Whitman

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