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Jewish History Museum, AME church reach out to community

(L-R) Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of Congregation Or Chadash, Bryan Davis of Tucson’s Jewish History Museum, and Pastor Margaret Redmond McFaddin of Prince Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church speak at the ‘No Hate No Fear’ solidarity rally Jan. 12 in Barrio Viejo. Photo Courtesy JHM

About 160 people filled the forecourt of Tucson’s Jewish History Museum on Sunday, Jan. 12, for a “No Hate. No Fear” solidarity rally organized by the museum and its next-door neighbor, the Prince Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The rally was a response to rising anti-Semitism in the United States, including several recent violent attacks: a Dec. 10 shoot-out in a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, that claimed six lives (including the two perpetrators); and a stabbing at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, on Dec. 28 in which five people were wounded. In addition, there has been a string of physical and verbal assaults on Orthodox Jews on the streets of Brooklyn, New York. A solidarity rally in New York on Jan. 5 drew an estimated 25,000 people, Jews, and non-Jews.

“Safety in solidarity means responding to anti-Jewish terror with intercommunal care,” says Bryan Davis, executive director of the Jewish History Museum. “In the same way that Rabbi [Joseph] Gumbiner reached out to our neighbors at the Prince Chapel congregation in the 1940s and co-created the Tucson Committee for Inter-Racial Understanding during the era of Jim Crow segregation, we are reaching out to our neighbors at the AME Church and Consul of Mexico, throughout Barrio Viejo, and across the community during this time of escalating anti-Semitism. Nurturing these relations is vital because anti-Semitism flourishes on conspiracy theories and misunderstanding. When we stand with our neighbors who also have been the victims of horrific violence in recent years, anti-Semitism is diminished and our community is strengthened.”   

Prince Chapel Pastor Margaret Redmond McFaddin, one of the speakers at the event, told the AJP, “We believe every human is a child of God. We don’t seek to divide, we seek to bring people together here in our common humanity and respecting each other’s traditions.

“The AME Church was birthed in social justice in 1787, when a group of people of African descent, both slave and free, were asked to get up off their knees while praying at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. The leader of that group was Richard Allen, who would later become our first bishop; [he] told the trustees, ‘If you would but allow us to finish praying, we will arise and trouble you no more.’ And at that point they walked out of the church,” McFaddin recounts, noting that the church they started, Mother Bethel, is still open and ministering to the community in Philadelphia.

McFaddin points to hateful attacks on the AME church, “most notably the Emanuel Nine, that was in Charleston [in 2015], where a white supremacist, I would call him a domestic terrorist, came in and shot nine people.”

“So we believe that if we stand united, we are greater than the forces that are against us,” she says.

Other speakers included Davis;  Lynn Hourani, outreach director of the Islamic Center of Tucson; and Mexican Deputy Consul Enrique Gómez Montiel. There also were songs from local folk musician Ted Warmbrand and from the Prince Chapel AME Church choir.

Rabbi Thomas Louchheim of Congregation Or Chadash began his remarks at the rally by listing sites of anti-Semitic attacks in recent months and years: “Pittsburgh; Poway; Miami; Paris; Monsey, New York; Charlottesville. The list of places comes tripping off our tongues with an easy familiarity ­­— places where Jews have been subjected to murderous attacks.

“We Jews belong to a strange fraternity. People know little of our history, our culture, our contributions, and still Jews are being attacked just for being Jews.

“Today, worldwide, Jews are frightened. I imagine many of you are frightened. But we will rally together today in solidarity against hate, fear, racism, anti-Semitism, and all forms of bigotry,” he said, adding that he has been called all too often to rallies of support in the wake of attacks against people “because they are a different color, originally from another country” or because of their sexual orientation.

The rabbi spoke of Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

“For thousands of years Judaism has taught “that there is inherent goodness in humanity,” Louchheim said, adding, “We are not only created in the image of God; but within each human being there is a divine spark.”

The goal of violent attacks is “to intimidate us from who we are and what we believe,” he said, imploring the crowd to “let these latest tragedies invigorate us to work harder to ensure that those who voice hatred and that those who are responsible for terror face justice, and that those who are impacted find in us a chaver, a companion; rachmanut, compassion, and shalom, peace.”

Ending with a prayer, Louchheim said, “Eternal our God, we are amply blessed. … Help us to know that we cannot have joy, peace, and contentment if others do not have hope.”

“The work of the Jewish History Museum, often in partnership with the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council, in building interfaith coalitions has never been more critical as we stand up against anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred,” says Stuart Mellan, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. “This rally in particular demonstrated the creativity and conviction of Bryan and the museum staff and board — it was a proud and inspiring moment for all of us in attendance.”