We are excited to welcome over 500 colleagues to The Temple during our upcoming CCAR Convention in Atlanta. This year marks the 150th anniversary of our congregation. As part of the festivities, the Alliance Theater has commissioned a theatrical production of Melissa Faye Greene’s book, The Temple Bombing. We are thrilled to be performing the show, at The Temple, as part of the Convention.
On October 12, 1958, a bundle of dynamite blew through the wall of Atlanta’s oldest synagogue. Following 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision, Rabbi Rothschild had become a public advocate for the progress of Civil Rights. The explosion and national support for The Temple community bolstered Atlanta city leaders’ resolve to investigate and prosecute the crime, paving the way for dramatic social change. This theatricalization celebrates a city that came together in the face of hatred to live the lessons of the civil rights era, lessons that still resonate 58 years after that fateful day.
Jimmy Maize’s The Temple Bombing transports us to a time in American history of unparalleled moral courage. In 1958, several Southern synagogues were bombed, causing many of the south’s 548,650 Jews to wonder whether they would soon become targets of religious bigotry. Maize paints an honest picture, drawing upon real biographies, of what it must have been like when our congregation and our rabbi were threatened.
Primarily, The Temple Bombing offers the world a unique glimpse into the heart and soul of our Rabbi, Jacob M. Rothschild: it is a portrait of moral courage. Rabbi Rothschild was a strong believer in interfaith dialogue, a champion of racial justice and integration, and one of the most respected religious leaders in the South.
As the play draws to a close, one can’t help but ponder a singular truth: Rabbi Rothschild knew then what we know today – that we must all stand up to bigotry and hatred. It is the height of gullibility to hope that the truly democratic forces, if left to work on their own at their normal pace, will correct the inequities so prevalent in our society.
The Temple Bombing is a wake-up call and an invitation to become an integral part of this turning point in history – to fulfill the promise of Rabbi Rothschild. Each of us has within us the God-given spark of creativity –the ability to transcend, to bring order to chaos, beauty to ugliness. Each of us has the power in our lives to give meaning or to withhold it. This task is, in no small part, the last, greatest hope in our humanity.
Rabbi Peter S. Berg serves The Temple in Atlanta, Georgia.