Jews of Dothan, Alabama, say their neighbors are not anti-Semites

(JTA) — Jewish leaders from Dothan, Alabama, say their non-Jewish neighbors were unfairly smeared as intolerant in an article about a Jewish couple’s dilemma over staying in the town.

A Washington Post article published last week profiled Lisa and Kenny Priddle, who took an offer of up to $50,000 to move to the small southern city and help revitalize its Jewish community. But now the couple is considering a return to New York due to feeling uncomfortable as Jews in Dothan, and feeling burned out in their attempts to build the community.

In the past decade, seven of 11 families that accepted the grants, offered by local philanthropist Larry Blumberg through the local Family Jewish Community Services, have left.

The former rabbi of the local synagogue, Lynne Goldsmith, wrote in the local Dothan Eagle that the article “mischaracterizes” the town.

“I can honestly say that I never experienced anti-Semitism while living in Dothan, and most Dothan Jews share this aspect of our life here,” she wrote. “And I never felt unsafe even while spending long hours in the synagogue alone or wearing a kippah (yarmulke) in public. I found people to be respectful of our heritage and beliefs, and while there was much lack of knowledge about Jews and Judaism, in general people were willing to learn about us.”