Temple Bombing Essay, Research Paper
The Temple Bombing
The Temple Bombing by Melissa Fay Greene is a historical account of the 1958 bombing of Atlanta’s Reform Jewish Temple. Greene constructs her narrative in a thrilling and persuasive manner that vividly describes her view and message about anti-Semitism and racial inequality in Atlanta and the rest of the South. Greene links the temple bombing with racial injustice and as a part of the history of civil rights. The lessons communicated can relate to many human beings today.
Contrary to popular belief, anti-Semitism in the U.S. was not uncommon. Similar to Anti-Semitism in other countries, Jews were still being used as scapegoats to cure the ails of society. Hate groups were formed, and discrimination was practiced. Although Jews made attempts to assimilate themselves into society, anti-Semitic views were still a part of the American psyche.
Even important historical figures such as Henry Ford who was openly Anti-Semitic. Ford published Jewish hate propaganda including the printed fabrication: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, in his newspaper The Dearborn Independent. This writing supposedly contained the dialogue of two dozen secret meetings, where Zionist leaders plotted world domination. Although a very wealthy and intelligent entrepreneur living in the US, Ford still became intoxicated by his own fears and insecurity, like many other Americans of that time.
In the US, there too have been incidents of torturous anti-Semitic acts. One example of this is the Leo Frank Case of 1913. Leo Frank was convicted of murdering Mary Peghan, a young employee of a pencil factory, who was sentenced to death, but was lynched by a mob before the sentence could take place. It was clearly evident that Frank was innocent of this crime, but prosecutors colored him to be some kind of sexual pervert and homosexual. Although Frank attempted to appeal because of mistakes in due process, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reopen the case. In 1915 a group of men kidnapped Frank and hung him from a tree, not to far from Mary Peghan s hometown. It was said some citizens of the community had taken photographs with the body. In Greene s book she states: Frank s treatment had left behind a profound taste of powerlessness and of detachment from the white community.
Greene describes the era between the W.W.I and W.W.II as America s peak of discrimination against Jews. Jews were receiving unfair treatment by universities, banks, manufacturing industries, insurance companies, utilities, publishers, law firms social clubs, engineering and architectural firms, and resorts. Colleges even required an applicant s mother s maiden name, to prevent an assimilated Jew from enrolling in universities.
After World War II, the slaughtering of 6 million Jews finally decreased anti-Semitic views and acts in America. There was an increase of acceptance of Jews in American institutions. Surprisingly, anti-Semitism and racial hate did not decrease in the South. Hitler and Nazism redefined anti-Semitism, through making it a matter of race rather than religion, leaving it impossible for Jews to assimilate.
Southern anti-Semitism is significant because it taught denying your culture and assimilating will not protect you from terrorism. Rationally, the South was able to hold on to old values longer than the north because they remained loyal to old values and ideas. Because of this, blacks and Jews were fearful to speak out.
Southern anti-Semitism was different from the rest of the country because of the small amount of diversity. Since the Civil War, the South was resistant to change from industrialization to slavery. Southerners still harbored the views and ideas from the civil war. Integration was a vital fear because of the segregation that had existed for so long. The south was ruled by blue-blooded society who relied on and held onto tradition to keep their authority in the south.
Anti-Semitism in the South became very concentrated when Blacks began to demand equal rights and Jews were blamed for role playing in the Civil Rights movement. Although this was partially true, it was taken out of proportion when the Scottsboro case had come into sight. In 1931 Samuel Lebowitz, a prominent and successful defense attorney represented the Scottsboro boys, 9 black boys arrested for raping two white women.
The boys were convicted and sentenced to death except the youngest. This gave way to tension in Alabama, a city that was too busy to hate . During the prosecutor Wade Wright s summation he pointed to the jury and said: Show them, show them that Alabama justice cannot be bought and sold with the Jew money from New York . Tension stirred and anti-Semitic statements were cried more often, unspoken thoughts were uncovered. Jews were blamed for using Blacks to stir disable Southern values. The Negro would behave himself if it wasn t for the Jews, was a statement made by Homer Loomis, leader of the hate group Colombians in Atlanta.
The hate propaganda and crimes committed grew, although Atlanta was supposed to be the city that separates itself from other cities in the South. They strive to keep bigotry concealed, to give off the impression that southern aristocracy did not control Atlanta. This changed in 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled that children could not be separated by race. Racial tension grew so did the number of racial bombing of schools and churches.
The temple bombing that occurred on October 12, 1958 was a message sent by segregationists to reformed Jews in Atlanta. Assimilation of Jews was no longer accepted. For years Jews tried to blend in society, but the bombing seemed to be a wake up call for Jews trying to hide their religion.
Melissa Greene s variety of informants and quotes shapes her book to produce an outlook that the reader is reading, concerning an incident of our time. Most quotes she uses do not contain verbs in the past tense Thus, leaving tension on the fact that this type of happening can take place even today.
Another technique Greene uses is looking at the bombing in view of a news broadcast, so we are intrigued, instead of bored by a documentary style. She uses personal experience, information and quotes taken from history and historical figures today. Her fast paced way of telling the story leaves you in suspense. Greene places quotes in jumble order with out chronological sequence.
Greene teaches denying your identity and assimilating into other culture will not armor you from mistreatment. She turns Jacob Rothschild into the hero of her book, because of his opposition of assimilation. She quotes him from a sermon he once gave when trying to understand Jews giving up their identity: I have a conviction; that our insecurity as Jews stems from our ignorance . The message trying to be sent is Jews should not feel ashamed because there is no escaping their heritage
Any minority or reader alive in that time period can relate to this part of history. Greene explains the significance of the bombing and connects it with the civil rights movement among blacks, and the effect anti-communism had on the way Jews were perceived.
Melissa Fay Greene constructs an appealing narrative about anti-Semitism and racial inequality in the South in her book, The Temple Bombing. Her large diverse collection of interviews, thoughts and ideas from important figures in history and today makes her novel interesting and distinct. She tells the historical account of anti-Semitism in the South and U.S., in a storytelling fashion.