Reposting from a friend about the Synagogue in Charlottesville: This is a powerful firsthand account by a member of the Charlottesville Synagogue

Reposting from a friend about the Synagogue in Charlottesville: This is a powerful firsthand account by a member of the Charlottesville Synagogue. I don’t want to just let the events last Saturday just fade away.
Let us practice full awareness, call up our courage, and practice right action ~ together. Alison
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Wendy Bornstein posted in The Morning After.
Wendy Bornstein
August 15 at 11:43pm
I want to share part of an email that was shared by my Rabbi today. It is horrifying to hear what fear the members of a Charlottesville Synagogue experienced during the day last Saturday while they were at services.
Over the weekend, we witnessed an appalling display of anger, hatred and violence in Charlottesville, VA. In a far from peaceful manner, armed white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched through the streets and brawled with counter-demonstrators. Many of us watched repeatedly the sickening scene of that car speeding into the crowd, evoking images of other such acts of terror, in London, Paris or Jerusalem. There is no reasonable doubt as to the source of the lawlessness and the violence of that day.
Why did it happen? Could it have been prevented? Could the police have done more?
And, not to be too parochial about this, but: what did it feel like to the Jews in town?
Here’s a chilling excerpt from a first-person account, written by Alan Zimmerman, president of Congregation Beth Israel, a Reform congregation in Charlottesville. It’s lengthy, but it’s worth reading:
On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the armed security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during morning services. (Even the police department’s limited promise of an observer near our building was not kept – and note, we did not ask for protection of our property, only our people as they worshipped).
Forty congregants were inside. Here’s what I witnessed during that time.
For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don’t know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn’t take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I’m paranoid. I don’t know.
Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There’s the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.
A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion. Was he casing the building, or trying to build up courage to commit a crime? We didn’t know. …
When services ended, my heart broke as I advised congregants that it would be safer to leave the temple through the back entrance rather than through the front, and to please go in groups.
This is 2017 in the United States of America.
Later …, we learned that Nazi websites had posted a call to burn [down] our synagogue. I sat with one of our rabbis and wondered whether we should go back to the temple to protect the building. What could I do if I were there? Fortunately, [the threat] was just talk – but we had already deemed such an attack within the realm of possibilities, taking the precautionary step of removing our Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll, from the premises.
Again: This is in America in 2017.
At the end of the day, we felt we had no choice but to cancel a Havdalah service at a congregant’s home. It had been announced on a public Facebook page, and we were fearful that Nazi elements might be aware of the event. Again, we sought police protection – not a battalion of police, just a single officer – but we were told simply to cancel the event.
Local police faced an unprecedented problem that day, but make no mistake, Jews are a specific target of these groups, and despite nods of understanding from officials about our concerns – and despite the fact that the mayor himself is Jewish – we were left to our own devices. The fact that a calamity did not befall the Jewish community of Charlottesville on Saturday was not thanks to our politicians, our police, or even our own efforts, but to the grace of God.
And yet, in the midst of all that, other moments stand out for me, as well.
John Aguilar, a 30-year Navy veteran, took it upon himself to stand watch over the synagogue through services Friday evening and Saturday, along with our armed guard. He just felt he should. …
A frail, elderly woman, crying, approached me Saturday morning as I stood on the steps in front of our sanctuary, to tell me that, while she was Roman Catholic, she wanted to stay and watch over the synagogue with us. At one point, she asked, “Why do they hate you?” I had no answer to the question we’ve been asking ourselves for thousands of years.
At least a dozen complete strangers stopped by as we stood in front of the synagogue Saturday to ask if we wanted them to stand with us.
And our wonderful rabbis stood on the front lines with other Charlottesville clergy, opposing hate.
Most attention now is, and for the foreseeable future will be, focused on the deaths and injuries that occurred, and that is as it should be. But for most people, before the week is out, Saturday’s events will degenerate into the all-to-familiar bickering that is part of the larger, ongoing political narrative. The media will move on …
We will get back to normal, also. We have two b’nai mitzvah coming up, and soon, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur will be upon us, too.
After the nation moves on, we will be left to pick up the pieces. Fortunately, this is a very strong and capable Jewish community, blessed to be led by incredible rabbis. We have committed lay leadership, and a congregation committed to Jewish values and our synagogue. In some ways, we will come out of it stronger — just as tempering metals makes them tougher and harder.

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