I recently had the good fortune to commune with the distinguished Mr. Rodney Mims Cook Jr., whose name is familiar to Atlanta families for its affiliation with the civil rights movement, among other accomplishments.
I reached out to Mr. Cook Jr. with regard to the dedication plaque at the Millennium Gate in Atlantic Station, specifically, about how that dedication plaque declares Jesus as The Christ, and details how the arch itself is modeled after the Roman Arch of Titus, which is famous for its relief of Romans sacking and pillaging The Temple in Jerusalem.
I asked Mr. Cook Jr. why – in the metro area that saw the lynching of Leo Frank, the resurgence of the KKK and the subsequent rise of the ADL, the metro area that endured the bombing of The Temple, and which is still home to one of the largest populations of Jews in the United States – there is a monument and a dedication that celebrates the decimation of the Holy of Holies and declares Jesus to be The Christ.
For his part, Mr. Cook Jr. was the model of decorum and grace. He detailed his own experiences with injustice and spoke about the exhibits within the museum itself (there is a museum within the arch, which is currently closed due to COVID restrictions) that highlight some important moments in Atlanta’s Jewish history. (Certain exhibits were even assisted by The Bremen Museum).
I am appreciative of these exhibits. It’s important that the rich (and sometimes harrowing) history of Jewish Georgia be told. But not every visitor to the arch is going to buy a ticket to the museum. All, however, will see the dedication declaring Jesus as The Christ, will learn how the arch is modeled after the Arch of Titus, and will read about how Western civilization owes itself and its accomplishments to the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians.
While it is inarguably true that ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt had immeasurable impacts on Western thought, it can easily be argued that other cultures and civilizations, including our own, made contributions equally as influential. The Bible, the Ten Commandments, the moral and ethical foundations to our laws and justice system, and even Jesus himself – the West owes all this and more to the influence of the Jews. And yet, society, schools, and even local monuments continue to focus on the achievements of those who conquered, enslaved and even murdered those who did not conform.
History continues to be written by the victors, I suppose.
For his part, Mr. Cook Jr. says the monument is a private one, and that the references to Jesus as Christ are appropriate, because the Gregorian calendar Westerners use, established by the Catholic Church, is based around the life of Jesus. My counterpoint that historians are now acknowledging that such a Christian-centric dating style is inappropriate and are switching from B.C./A.D. to B.C.E. and C.E. designations fell on very respectful, deaf ears.
So will the dedication plaque at Millennium Gate, which declares Jesus The Christ, models itself after the tragedies we lament at Tisha B’Av, and declares that some of history’s most oppressive regimes are the ones to which America owes its greatness, be changed?
But the victory, fellow Jews, remains ours.
Because ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt all fell.
But we’re still here.
We still have a voice, and we still have a vote. And I’ll take my voice and my vote over a monument any day. L’chaim!
Erin Miller, Marietta