In the South, the Jewish community has been one of its victims. Just to speak of the Atlanta area. More than 100 years ago, Leo Frank was lynched. Fifty years ago, The Temple on Peachtree Street was firebombed. Throughout our history, we have faced the constant attacks, the derogatory remarks, quotas in schools, physical assaults, and “forgetful scheduling” of events that conflict with our most sacred religious holidays.
Charlottesville made me recall my childhood, when my parents shared their own stories of standing up to the KKK. They told me about Holocaust survivors who confronted hate in the U.S. in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Imagine the post-traumatic stress and the strength it took after the Holocaust to once again stand up to threatening bigots seeking to suck democracy dry. Never forget.
But just as important, never forget or underestimate the uniqueness of American society or the strengths of our pluralistic democracy. We are stronger and more united as a community. We saw in Charlottesville counter-protesters from all faiths, ethnicities, and nationalities. It was a reminder to never forget that we, and the vast majority who oppose the purveyors of hate, are not alone.
Over the years, these trials and tribulations have inspired the American Jewish Committee (AJC) to create the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition, the Latino-Jewish Task Force, and the Muslim-Jewish Initiative. These have given us opportunities to create dialogue and build understanding so we can preserve the privilege of living in a democracy.
We invite all of Atlanta’s multicultural citizenry to gain from AJC’s programs founded on the principle that our differences are actually our strength. While the programs are separate and distinct, they often reinforce each other to strengthen our community bonds and ensure that none of us ever forgets that neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and their sympathizers are unequivocally placed outside the pale as immoral, illegitimate, and anti-democratic. Never forget — they have no place in our precious, democratic American society.
Dov Wilker is Atlanta regional director, American Jewish Committee.