The Temple, Atlanta’s oldest Jewish congregation, was honored by the Georgia Historical Society on Friday, May 12, with the 29th marker on the Georgia Civil Rights Trail, an initiative focused on preserving the history of the civil rights movement.
Temple Executive Director Mark Jacobson told a small crowd gathered at The Temple how timely the dedication was for the congregation, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
“Many use the phrase ‘There are no such things as coincidences,’ ” Jacobson said. “In Judaism, we call it beshert, which means ‘meant to be.’ So here we are today, and wasn’t it meant to be that Janice Rothschild Blumberg, wife of Rabbi Jacob Rothschild of blessed memory, the Georgia Historical Society, the Jackie and Tony Montag family, and The Temple come together during our 150th anniversary celebration year to dedicate this civil rights marker?”
The marker sits outside the front entrance to The Temple at the southeastern corner of the building. It commemorates the supportive role The Temple played during the civil rights era.
Rabbi Rothschild, The Temple’s senior rabbi from 1946 to 1973, was an outspoken proponent of social justice, as were many of his congregants. In response, white supremacists bombed the northern side of the Peachtree Street building Oct. 12, 1958.
The bombing sent ripples through Atlanta, which called itself the “city too busy to hate.”
“When we started this Civil Rights Trail a few years ago, we wanted to make sure that the sites are not exclusively African-American because the civil rights movement involved all kinds of people,” said W. Todd Groce, the president and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “What happened here, the bombing of The Temple, was incredibly important, and it’s very important to mark this site. It was an important point in the civil rights movement.”
Groce said the Historical Society, based in Savannah, worked for years to get a marker at The Temple. Georgia has more historical markers than any other state aside from Texas.
“The struggle for civil rights is an ongoing process,” Groce said, “not only in America, but in the world. What markers like this do is help us understand how we got to this point so we can make good decisions going forward.”
Photos by Elyse Butler, Georgia Historical Society