Federation’s Rabbinic and Communal Leadership Mission to Alabama

January 30 – February 2, 2023, Federation led a Rabbinic and Communal Leadership Mission to Alabama, traveling to Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham, AL to learn about America’s Civil Rights Movement. Through various site visits, lectures, and conversations, the group explored their role and responsibilities as leaders of conversations that challenge our understanding of our country’s past and of racial justice. Below you will find personal reflections from our mission participants about their experiences.

Reflections from the Participants

Rabbi Sarah Tasman
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Director of Jewish Journeys and Engagement

It is early in the morning when I can finally sit down in the cool dawn light to collect my thoughts after returning from spending the past five days in Alabama as part of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Rabbinic and Communal Leaders Mission to the South.

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Rabbi Michael J. Safra
B’nai Israel

Our last stop today was at the Peace and Justice Memorial Center, a moving memorial to the more than 4,400 Blacks who were lynched by groups of at least 2 or more between the years 1877-1950. More than 10,000 Whites are documented as having participated in a lynching (most were never punished in any way for their crimes), but it was even more pervasive than that.

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Rabbi Hyim Shafner
Kesher Israel

This week I traveled with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington to Alabama with 20 rabbis from the DMV. (I suppose I should entitle this week’s email: “Letter from a Hotel in Montgomery”.) We went to Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery; we visited Dr. Martin Luther King’s parsonage, the Rosa Parks Museum, and other important spots on the civil rights trail.

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Aviva Walls
Gesher Jewish Day School

This past week, I embarked on a mission with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and other community Rabbis and Leaders, to Alabama. Over five days, we visited museums and monuments, discussed historical documents and, most importantly, spoke to some truly incredible people, that I will share succinctly with you here. Instead of trying to explain every day and every interaction, I want to share the stories of two of the individuals we met and why I felt it was important for me to attend this communal trip.

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Rabbi Evan J. Krame
Rabbis Without Borders

Birmingham: Before the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed on Sunday, September 15, 1963, the church secretary, Mrs. Shorter, a 75-year-old woman received several phone threats. She was unnerved by the calls, but others ignored her concern. Bombing was a common threat…

Southern Jews and Jewish Values: Jews had long participated in the American South. The South was host for Jewish immigrants hoping to live the American Dream. Yet, that dream was marred by discrimination and segregation…

Selma: The morning in Selma, Alabama was extremely foggy. It was hard to see the Alabama river below the bridge into town. We turned off the bridge onto Water Street. Stepping down from the bus, we entered one of the old brick buildings along the waterfront. And then the day slowly began to clear…

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Rabbi Corey Helfand
Ohr Kodesh Congregation

It’s always hard to know how to start a journey. This week, along with 20 colleagues and Jewish professionals from the DMV, we went back in time to walk the story of our country. A story of pain, trauma, victimization, dehumanization.

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