On a stage featuring some of the leading Protestant pastors in Atlanta, Sherry Frank’s impassioned speech stood out Monday morning, Dec. 14, during an interfaith call to stand with the Muslim community against fear and prejudice.
“How dare the demagogues and bigots of today not honor the basic principles of our Constitution and our nation and welcome the stranger and include, value and honor the magnificent ethnic and religious diversity of America?” said the former head of the American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta Chapter.
Four times she repeated, “It is despicable and indefensible to suggest a ban on Muslims entering our country.”
Such a ban was proposed a week earlier by Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, inspiring the Rev. Gerald Durley, pastor emeritus of Providence Missionary Baptist Church, to organize the Faith Over Fear rally at the King Center to express “concern about a dire situation.”
“We want to let Georgia know that this is a unified group,” Durley said of the 38 faith-based organizations involved in the event, which drew about 75 people.
In addition to Frank, representatives of the Jewish community included The Temple’s Rabbi Peter Berg, Ahavath Achim Synagogue’s Rabbi Laurence Rosenthaland and Myrtle Lewin, Congregation Bet Haverim’s Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Congregation Or Hadash’s Rabbi Mario Karpuj, the Anti-Defamation League’s Mark Moskowitz and Shelley Rose, the AJC’s Harold Hershberg, Interfaith Community Initiatives’ Judy Marx, the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Noah Appley and Lois Frank, and Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters’ Audrey Galex.
“Jews cannot stand idly by today and watch our Muslim brothers and sisters subject to such inhumane treatment, especially because of the atrocities of a few,” Rabbi Berg said. He called Trump’s suggestion to close the borders to Muslims unconstitutional, un-American, and harmful to the United States’ standing in the world and efforts to fight terrorism.
“He makes a mockery of this season” when Chanukah celebrates religious freedom, the rabbi said, emphasizing that the United States is one nation under G-d, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. “We must work with more determination than ever before to make sure that nobody elected to any office, local, statewide or national, can take this away from us. All of us up here, we are our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers.”
Both Imam Plemon El-Amin and a representative of the Islamic Speakers Bureau thanked the other faith leaders for their support.
The Rev. Bernice King cited Proverbs and her father Martin Luther King Jr.’s writing in labeling Trump’s proposal not only unacceptable, but also a form of violence. “We must refuse to be silent in the face of such hateful and hurtful rhetoric.”
She invited Trump to go through King Center training on nonviolence and conflict reconciliation so that he can learn to “win people over, not win over people.”
Moskowitz, the ADL’s Southeast director, echoed the idea of education for Trump, saying the candidate needs to go back to school for a lesson in American history.
“I know from my Jewish community’s tragic experience during the Holocaust what the price of silence yields,” Frank said. “I will never remain silent when evil prevails in our midst.”