May 20, 2020
It’s been nearly a year since an African American man, Ahmaud Arbery, was shot and killed apparently while jogging down a street in Brunswick, Ga. Three white men were arrested and are awaiting trial. While none of the four had any connection to the local Jewish community, Temple Beth Tefilloh and Rabbi Rachel M. Bregman – formerly at The Temple in Atlanta – were not left unscathed by the ensuing community crisis that drew worldwide attention.
“I am really heartbroken to be joining a small, but growing club of clergy and community leaders where a young black person is murdered for being a young black person,” Bregman said last spring. The part-time rabbi has served Brunswick’s only synagogue for about seven years after three years at The Temple. She said it was “divine intervention” that brought her to Brunswick.
“I have always been a social justice junkie,” Bregman, a Boston native said. She noted how she ran a soup kitchen while in rabbinic school in New York and traveled to Rwanda and Uganda to “better understand the complexities of the world.” As a community organizer, she’s also been heavily involved in hunger, homelessness, anti-human trafficking and civil rights.
All of which may have led her to The Temple in the first place. “Knowing The Temple embraced a commitment to social justice” acted as a magnet to Bregman. The oldest Jewish congregation in Atlanta, established in 1860, The Temple has long been in the center of the civil rights movement. In 1958, The Temple was bombed by white supremacists in retaliation for Rabbi Jacob Rothschild’s criticism of segregation.
While at The Temple, Bregman served as the rabbi for Open Jewish Project, connecting with thousands of young Jewish adults, and strove to educate the Atlanta Jewish community about the scourge of human trafficking.