This 2017 episode covers Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, a vocal activist who spoke out for civil rights despite the danger in doing so. White supremacists bombed The Temple in Atlanta in a direct reaction to Rothschild's work for equality.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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We are not available in all states and situations happy Saturday of this week on the show, I talked to Jeremy cats about his new book, the jewish community of Atlanta, as well as the work that he does at the Bremen Museum and how that museum is preserving past present and what they hope will be future. Jewish community in Atlanta, for everyone in our disk. Should we also talked about our previous episode on the Hebrew Benevolent Temple bombing and we'll replaying man as a Saturday classic today. This episode originally came out February, twentieth, twenty seven welcome to stuff you missed in history class of production, of Iheart Radio Hello, unwelcome podcast, I'm hallway for I'm Tracy bewildered, For our listeners, like I know, sometimes I'm listening to podcast, I'm just letting them fly,
when I don't always look at what's coming next week when I'm driving around, but if you are a person that looks at year, podcast selection- and you pick one or you just see it come up, and you like to read what's coming up, if you saw the title for today's episode, you might be braced really horrific or upsetting story. I in fact was braced for such a thing. When you told me what you're researching this week, I give you relief because the bombing of the hebrew benevolent aggregation Temple in Atlanta in the late nineteenth fifties was a unique moment in the civil rights movement and why There are some elements of the temples, free bombing history and some idea. Oh geez that are troubling and horrific. I will go
spoiler and say that overall, this is really a very, very hopeful story. Yeah there is, there is definitely a bombing. There is also racism and anti Semitism, but the story is not the parade of tragedy. You may be expecting based on title correct, so it it mean if you were worried or scared that this is one you just were not ready for today. It is probably not going to be as upsetting as you think, although of course there is some upsetting rhetoric being discussed on the part of people that would vomit thing so we're going to hop right now,
while Atlanta has had a jewish population, since the city was founded at the end of eighteen, forty, seven to use for really a small minority of the city's people. In eighteen, fifty fewer than thirty Jews were recorded, living in Atlanta, less than one percent of the city's residents, and by one thousand eight hundred and sixty the year before the United States, civil war began. The jewish population in the city had doubled. Atlanta's hebrew benevolent society was also founded. That organization came together with two primary mission: assisting the city's impoverished population and securing a burial ground. Two years after the civil war ended, while Atlanta was still rebuilding as a city, the hebrew benevolent society took its next step establishing a temple, and this move was precipitated by the words of the Rabbi Isaac LISA of Film.
Althea who was here presiding over a wedding that was the first jewish marriage ceremony in Atlanta in January of eighteen. Sixty seven and Rabbi LISA told the southern cities jewish community, that they should establish a permanent place of worship and his words were definitely heard. And they were encouraging when the hebrew benevolent congregation was bounded in eighteen sixty seven, it was the first official jewish institution in Atlanta by the late spring of that year. Just four months after rabbi, we certainly encouragement. They had their charter over the next eight years, the congregation planned and build a temple and downtown lands, which was completed in eighteen. Seventy five, the early years for the Temple, which is the name it came to be known by that shortened version we're a little bit rocky beer
a series of changeovers in rabbis as the congregation struggled with its identity and the type of worship that it would favour swaying between traditional and reform ideologies. But in eighteen. Ninety five twenty three year old Rabbi, David Marks was hired and he would stay at the temple for more than half a century, steering it toward classical reformed Judaism. When rabbi marks, retired after world war to you, he was replaced with rabbi, Jacob Rothschild and nineteen forty six Rothschild built on marks as work and fostering.
And actions with the greater Atlanta community, including with other religious faiths. Rabbi Rothschild, was also a vocal supporter of civil rights and social justice, and this was a departure from his predecessors work who had felt that in order to keep his congregation as safe as possible from anti semitic sentiments in the community, it was best to avoid confrontations with the wider community. On such issues to be clear, there is a very real and understandable reasoning behind Marx's efforts to keep peaceful relation, ships with Atlantis gentile population. Many of the Temple community remembered vividly an event from nineteen thirteen, when a member of the Temple named LEO Frank, was launched by a mob after being accused of the murder of a young girl. The evidence against him was
and by virtue of being an outsider being a northerner who had moved to the south and a Jew LEO Frank became escape a scapegoat who was easy to vilify. That is a way over simplified version of the story. We have an episode about it in the archive is a huge miscarriage of justice, and much of the jewish community in Atlanta opted to keep a low profile after that out of step out of self preservation. Yes, so when we say that that rabbi marks had not been vocal about civil rights, it was it necessarily because you didn't care about them, but he was very concerned about the anti semitic issues that were still very much a part of culture at the time, but on the Yom Kippur, almost from the time that he became the rabbi at the Temple Rothschild use the holiday as an opportunity to speak about segregation and do vocally oppose Jim Crow laws. He did so during
subsequent Yom Kippur sermons as well, it kind of came to be expected as the topic, then one thousand nine hundred and forty eight he included the following. Is he addressed his congregation? How comforting this day might be here is the perfect opportunity to find ourselves forgiving God standard is too high for us. His laws too difficult. Our sins were just be expected failures of all mortals. All we need to do there or as come into his presence on each Yom Kippur acknowledge are inevitable guilt and pray for forgiveness and low. We shall be forgiven. We are held accountable for our conduct. We are responsible for our acts, don't
analyze, your guilt by claiming that morality is too difficult for attainment by mere man. Don't pretend helplessness, because the right way to live is placed out of your reach down for a moment. Think that you can blame your simpleness on the fact that goodness is beyond your grasp. Quite the opposite is true. We must do more than view with alarm the growing race hatred that threatens the south. The problem is
hours to solve, and the time for the solution is now. We have committed no over sin in our dealings with negroes. I feel certain that we have treated them fairly. Certainly, we have not used force to frighten them. We have even felt a certain sympathy for their predicament know. Our sin has been the deeper one, the evil of what we didn't do. This was, as you might suspect, not entirely welcome to rhetoric. The fear of bigoted anti semitic sentiment was still very real to some of the people that Rothschild was speaking to. They had lived through that one thousand nine hundred and thirteen incident, and they knew how scary the world could be. They didn't want to invite
Hector stirrup trouble and they were certainly afraid of stirring up the level of anti Semitism that had led to LEO Francs murder. I would say also this was in the nineteen forty, so there is huge reason to be afraid based on events going on in Europe, yet light there was. There was a lot of a region that people felt the need to stay quiet and then, additionally, to all that Rothschild was something of an outsider himself. He was from Pittsburgh and he came to leave the temple after having served as an army chaplain so well. Some of his congregation agreed with his ideas but feared retribution for them. Others dismissed his message as being out of touch with the cold
or of the south and the tentative peace among the different cultures that made up Atlanta, but to Rothschild the morality that he felt was an integral part of his face meant that he had to use this platform to address social injustice. So he continued to speak out again and again and we put actions behind words, he joined interface organizations and civic groups, including the southern regional council. The Georgia Council, one human relations, as well as the greater Atlanta Council on Human relations and under his stewardship, the Temple, hosted an institute for the Christian Clergy every February and while he worked hard to foster understanding across burying faiths. Rabbi Rothschild also works to bridge the color divide as well, asserting that black men Servers must be included in his hands of gatherings and he also invited leaders of the black community to speak at the Temple in late, one thousand, nine hundred and fifty seven. So after he had been working at this time
about a decade in Atlanta, Rothschild, CO, authored the Atlanta manifesto, which was an anti segregation document that was signed by more than eighty area, religious leaders and was directed at city. Priorities. While he worked on the manifesto Rothschild was not one of the signatories because he felt that the city's christian leader should head the initiative, for it have its best chance at a positive reception and that manifesto. read in part. We do not believe that the south is more to blame for the difficulties which we face. There are other areas of our nation Presence of the Negro in America is the result of the infamous slave traffic and evil, for which the north was as much responsible as the south. We are also conscious that racial injustice and violence are not confined to our section and that racial problems have by no means been solved anywhere and our nation two wrongs
however, do not make a right. The failures of others are not just a justification for our own shortcomings. Nor can there unjust criticisms. Excuse us A failure to do our duty in the sight of God are one concern must be to know and to do that which is right. And all of this vocal opposition to racism on the part of the Rabbi not go unnoticed by the greater population, but unfortunately, the rabbis efforts to foster understanding and compassion led to some very serious consequences and we're gonna talk about that right after we. First, pause for a little sponsor break the boar pursed up he missed in history. Glass comes from Lord Jones maker. The world's finest cd products featured in the New York Times. People vote vanity, fair and more there's a reason. So many people are talking about Lord Jones. Not only was Lord Jones order, the first premium see
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Anything you love to listen to all in one app audible plus is your playlist for life. New members can always try, audible plus for thirty days on us, visit, audible, dot, com, slash history, stuff or text history, stuff to five hundred five hundred while there were people in Rabbi, Rothschilds Congregation, who were a little unsettled by his constant engagement with social issues. There are plenty of people from outside the temples community who were downright incensed, for example, in May of nineteen. Fifty eight Rothschild was engaged as a speaker at Atlantis First Baptist Church and the evening of his lecture. A man appeared outside the church, carrying a picket sign specifically against the rabbi, and then he would
heckled. The rabbi during the q and a segment of the evenings presentation- and there was already a weird conflation on the part of white supremacist groups when it came to the jewish and black communities. We listen to your episodes about the Palmer raves. You may recall how Palmer in stirring up a panic, started to lump anarchists and communists together as one huge threat pool and then eventually cast suspicion on all emigrants. There was a similar, though different rhetoric playing out in the south and nineteen fifties and to be clear, there are jewish black people yeah, but that this was viewing the jewish community as a whole in a black community. The holes in the same general threat base, yes, and so, for example, of how these things got combined. One flyer that was being circulated by the christian Anti jewish party at the beginning of the nineteen fifties was titled Jews behind race, mixing
The flier claimed that the jewish population was working against segregation so that the white race would be diluted and weakened. Warning that quote a race once Monger Lized is materialised forever. So there was no illusion that an outspoken rabbi arguing against segregation was it going to make people angry the real moment where it became clear that roster would that Rothschild was really ruffling. Feathers came in the very early morning of October 12th, one thousand nine hundred and fifty eight when there was split version at the Temple. It was. Forty a m on a Sunday rather Rothschild was called us seven hundred and forty five, a dot m by the custodian at the Temple, Robert Benson Benson, had been the one to discover the damage when he arrived at work. That morning and you might think as you listen to when you think about the timeline that an explosion that large three in the morning would have woken the neighbourhood and it did, but when police
ro the area in response to calls about the noise. They did not drive up the temples driveway and from their perspective, they couldn't see the hole in the building from the street. So it looked like everything was I'm I'm imagining that they went to investigate this noise than were basically like ha as weird raise. Fifty sticks of dynamite had been detonated at the temples mirth entrance and the blast made a huge huge hole in the building. Fortunately, though, there were no injuries. There was, however, somewhere between one hundred thousand and two hundred thousand dollars worth of damage to the structure depending on what source you are. Looking, yeah, especially if you're looking at newspapers from the time. The number varies wildly one things that I read suggested that two hundred was like the highest estimate, but as they.
You know, got more and more information about how bad the damage was. It. It crept downward a little bit closer to the one hundred thousand dollar number, still, a very large sum in nineteen, fifty eight or ever or now, yeah or so used to modern stories of of explosions or dead Just being in the billions that it may not seem initially that large an amount to the modern era, but in fact it's a lot of money and this attack was claimed by a white supremacist group called the Confederate Underground, a man claiming to be the leader of the group and calling himself General Gordon phones at United Press International Office to tell them quote: we bombed a temple in Atlanta. This is the last empty building we will bomb. Negroes and Jews are hereby declared aliens at six hundred and fifteen. That evening there was enough
all this time to the rabbis home, where his wife Denise answered they caught the call said, I'm one of them that bombed your church, I'm calling to let you know, there's a bomb under your house and its lit. You ve got five minutes to get out and save your life while Denise and a neighbor got themselves and their children out of the house, it turned out to have been an empty threats: the other police came and did a full scan of the house and found nothing, but how terrifying and horrible, and that same group, the confederate underground, had attacked us
synagogue in Charlotte North Carolina the prior November, the dynamite that they used in that attack failed to detonate in between that failed attempt and the explosion at the Temple in Atlanta, the Confederate underground head bomb for other temples and jewish community centers. Father second attack in Gastonia North Carolina on February. Ninth, one thousand nine hundred and fifty eight had also been thwarted by faulty dynamite. Their third and fourth bombings carried out just hours apart on March sixth 16th at the Orthodox Temple Beth EL in Miami Florida and the jewish community Center in Nashville Tennessee, both caused building damage
the fifth attack at the Bethel Synagogue in Birmingham Alabama on April. Twenty Eightth was unsuccessful. This time too, diffuse failure and the following day there was another failed attack at the jewish community Centre in Jacksonville. Florida feel like this highlights the fact that, like this series of bomb threats at jewish community centres, that is ongoing today has layers of being terrifying beyond the fact that a bomb threat right yeah, it's a bomb threat, that's part of a history of bomb threats and bombings, specifically against jewish centres in houses of worship. Because of those attacks and a protest demonstration outside the Atlanta Constitution offices in July,
where protesters carried signs. Reading free America from jewish domination, the Temple and all synagogues throughout the south had increased their security, but this was not enough to deter the terrorists. The other thing that happened as a result of the previous attacks was actually an improvement in coordination across police horses from jurisdictions throughout the south, and so after the attack on the Temple, the law enforcement network activated immediately more than seventy five detectives work in conjunction with agents from the FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in an unprecedented effort to search for suspects in the crime. Five days after the bombing on October 17th, one thousand nine hundred and fifty eight five men all assoc. With the white supremacy groups, the National States Rights Party and the Knights of the White Camelia were indicted for the blast Wallace Alan Robert Bowling, George Bright Luther Coralie and can't Griffin, and they
actually let one of the men go, but the first of the five men that they tried was George bright and his trial started on December. First, with Judge Der would T pie presiding the case against bright was the strongest the prosecutors believed, and the hope was that a conviction in his case would make it easier to bit his coat cohorts your kind of relying on a domino effect to take place, the evidence against bright, included a note found in his home that threatens terror against the jewish population. Anti Semitic, literature founded his home and testimony from an FBI informant, who said that he had in a meeting with the other men in May of that year, where they planned the Temple its hack additionally, the man we mentioned earlier, who protested Electra, giving given by Rabbi Rothschild in an heckled him from the crowd, was also George bright. He had also been part of the anti semitic protest outside the newspaper office is the jury in the case actually came to a deadly
There were nine in favour of conviction and three that were opposed and none were willing to budge. So On the tenth day of the legal proceedings, Judge Pie declared a mistrial. A second trial, soon followed, but this time bright was acquitted. There is actually a whole weird side story where his lawyer was found in contempt of courts and, I think, actually ended up doing some jail time, but he got his client. It sounded like a circus, but because of the failure to secure a guilty verdict in what they thought was clearly their strongest case prosecutors. Eventually, it looks quite some time, but they eventually drop the charges against the other alleged conspirators, no other suspects wherever charged for the bombing. So there was absolutely never any justice in this case, Manassas also pre circumstantial evidence laugh. It is clear evidence that tea was anti semitic that, like not a conclusive thing there
directly connecting him to the bombing so well, that's a somber element of this case. It dies as we mentioned at the top. The show have some truly hopeful elements to it and we will talk about there's after a quick word from one of our sponsors. ever buy something and then regret it like pants, they fit great at the store but after a while, you avoid sitting in them Ici in which workers are hard to find. Ok, we're talking about cars here. That's why our max's introducing the love, your car guarantee with twenty four hour test drives and a thirty day money back guarantee, so you can take a car home country with it, because sometimes you just don't know its until you fall asleep on your countenance sorry talk about pants, again, Comex wages fifteen homo limits, comic stock, Humphrey details to show
how easy it is to file a claim with Geico we hired a soap opera. Star gracious me like our has storm damage, and I dont vile acclaim couldn't possibly get worse. Will Michael, My team leave me for someone else. Someone less intense, no Surely, when you file a claim with Geico, you get your own Derek. It claims team who promises to stay with you throughout the process had never known such loyalty. I can wait a second season. Geico great service, without all the drama All of that outreach that Rabbi Rothschild had been doing in Atlanta divers communities as uncomfortable is sometimes made. People was really repaid in the aftermath of the bombing people from all walks of life rallied around Rothschild in his congregation religious and civic leaders in Atlanta, and then in the U S and then around the globe condemned the attack. The help came in both verbal condemnation
gonna be attack and in financial support for the Temple to rebuild the mayor of Lana at the time, will you be here spilled name, your recognise if you have ever blown and around Lina said in an interview right after the attack quote my friends here. You see the end result of bigotry and intolerance, and whether we like it or not. Those practising rabble rousing and demagoguery are the God fathers of the cross borders and the dynamiters yeah there's actually footage of of him, making that pronouncement on television and in whose southern exe it's quite charming. The editor of the Atlanta constitution, Ralph Mcgill, another name, your recognise. If you ve been in the city, we have a street named after him,
a series of editorials on the bombing which eventually earned him a Pulitzer Prize in which he said quote. You cannot preach and encourage hate for the negro and hope to restrict it to that field when the wounds of hate are loosed on one people than no one is safe. Donations came from rich and poor alike, including wine, which was sent in by Fulton County Prison Chaplain Bill Alison. The money the chaplain explained had been contributed by the prisons, black population, who had taken up a collection to donate the chaplain received a letter of thanks from Rothschild, which said quote of all the gifts which we have received this one, certainly as one of the most meaning all and heartwarming the Social hall at the Temple was named friendship hall to acknowledge the many people from all over it lemme in the world who stood by Rothschild in his congregation and help them rebuild in the rat.
As first sermon after the bombing he shared. This message of hope quote: this despicable act has made a brighter. of courage and renewed and splendor the fires of determination and dedication. It has reached the hearts of men everywhere and roused the conscience of people united and righteousness. All of us together shout rear from the rubble of devastation, A city and the land in which all men are truly brothers and none shall make them afraid. The following year on the anniversary of the bombing the Temple had been repaired and red white and blue stained glass windows filled the space that had been the whole caused by the blast and in a statement to the press that was made on that anniversary rabbi. Rothschild said that the windows quote symbolise the basic faith of the people, while the bomb attack had the surprise counts
and of bringing a lot of the Atlanta community together at also highlighted the problems that were still so clear across the country. There were very valid questions raised about whether there would be such kindness and good pr if the same thing has happened at a black church. There are already plenty of cases of racist violence on the books against African Americans that had not been pursued so diligently as the Temple bombing or at all, in some instances, the bombing in its reaction also caught the segregationist movement off guard, while supporters of cigarettes. She had long seen, liberals from the north and the end of lacy P in the Supreme Court as their enemies in what they thought was right.
There were also efforts at this point to try to dissociate from the militant white supremacist movements like the National States Rights Party, the knights of the White Camelia, and the K K K. They wanted not to let that MAR what they thought was. They occur I ve already- and there were also some claims by white supremacist groups- that this whole bombing had been staged just to incriminate them. There were certainly still many battles to fight in the civil rights movement and racial equality and, frankly, Anti Semitism still remain issues today, with the aiming at the Temple is largely seen as a watershed moment that moved the civil rights movement forward. When Rabbi Rothschild wife, Denise Rothschild Bloomberg, wrote about incident later in her life, she tiled her writing the boy that healed and in that writing, which appeared in America
in jewish History magazine Jenny's. Also, astutely acknowledge the racial divide that offered the Temple a bit of privilege. In the wake of this bombing, she wrote quote to church, going Atlanteans desecration of a house of God was an abomination that it was jewish made, no difference that its members were white probably did, and I also want to say that that particular piece of writing is spectacular and I encourage people to go. Read it it's available on J Store, because she really capture is what it was like to be in the midst of that sort of weird shockwave and when it was like from receiving that call in the morning how they were dealing with it. What her emotions were doing, what the community was doing. It's a really really good snapshot of that moment.
history there. Why you, and I neither of us, is jewish. We have not spent our lives confronting anti Semitism or racism frankly, so having perspectives from people who are coming from that side of its super important rabbi Rothschild continued for his entire life to be an outspoken advocate for equality, even more so after the bombing them before he gave the eulogy for his friend Martin Luther King Jr, at an interfaith memorial in Atlanta. After the civil rights leader was assassinated. He died of a heart attack on the last day of nineteen, seventy, three
but the Temple remains its changed and been renovated several times to accommodate it's it's ever growing community and it is still an active place of worship. It is also the National Park Service National register of historic places. To visits. I mean it's a part of Atlanta that we see all the time people drive by it is shown in the movie driving Miss Daisy. It is it's a gorgeous gorgeous structure and really lovely, so that is the story of the Temple bombing the end. It's one of those things that I feel foolish. I did not, even though I live here in Atlanta, and I have seen little snippets about it, I never really knew that much about it. Yet I knew you and I had a brief conversation before we started recording about having any even been theirs. It.
which History museum in Atlanta and haven't you haven't even been there and, I think, gone through their exhibition honour his jewish history in Atlanta through objects. It rang a bell, but I knew so little about it at all yeah, which is a pity I mean I know within the jewish community, that is still a very big deal and something that they speak about a lot, but I had no knowledge of that fact. Prior to digging into this research,
pays them unstring joining us on this matter day, since this episode is out of the archive, if you heard of Emily Address or Facebook url or something similar over the course of the show that could be obsolete. Now, our current EU mail address is history. Podcast at I heart, radio dot com are old, hell stuff works, they militarist no longer works, and you can find us all over social media at missed in history, and you can subscribe to our shadow on apple pod task. Google podcast the eye heart radio app and wherever else he listened Odd casts study must than history class in the production of Iheart radio for more part cap from Iheart radio. But I hope, radio habit Mancha or wherever you listen to your favorite Joe.
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Transcript generated on 2021-04-11.