Two weeks ago, our first budgie left the nest.
Our daughter, Molly, moved to Jackson, Miss., to begin a two-year fellowship with the Goldring/Woldenburg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. She’ll be working with small Jewish congregations throughout the Southeast, providing them with a comprehensive religious school curriculum, offering support to the teachers, traveling to visit the congregations and leading services in the absence of a rabbi.
A year ago, this wasn’t part of her game plan. She was in graduate school, preparing to teach high school language arts and theater. She went to job fairs, she filled out online applications, she sent out resumes. Then ... nothing.
She found out about the Institute of Southern Jewish Life fellowships and placed an application. She flew to Jackson for a visit and an interview. When the offer came, she said yes.
Jackson wasn’t anywhere near the top of my list of places where I hoped Molly would settle. My choices ran the gamut from North Hall to Oakwood to Flowery Branch. I make no apologies. She’s a great kid. I like having her around.
As she began planning her move, there were problems. She could share a house with two other fellows, but her room would not be available until July 1; her job started on June 1. We were stumped. She couldn’t rent a place for a month. An extended-stay motel was an option but not a very good one.
Then, a family from Beth Israel Congregation, Jackson’s only temple, heard of Molly’s plight and invited her into their home for the month of June. Donna and Ted Orkin have been wonderful to her, helping her learn her way around and introducing her to the Beth Israel community, where she’s now a member of the choir.
Her phone calls home have been filled with descriptions of a lovely town and gracious, welcoming people. I’ve never been to Jackson, but I like it already.
Molly was hard at work in her office at the institute last Wednesday afternoon when an FBI agent arrived to brief the staff on security tactics. A gunman, James von Brunn, had open-fired at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, killing a security guard before he was shot and seriously injured when other guards returned fire. He is an avowed white supremacist and holocaust denier.
Although no threats had been made against the institute, copycats are always a concern at times like this. Crazy begets crazy.
Back in April, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo warning that present economic and political conditions have set the stage for an increase in violent anti-Semitic behavior.
It read: “Anti-Semitic extremists attribute (economic) losses to a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish ‘financial elites,’” the report read. “These ‘accusatory’ tactics are employed to draw new recruits into right-wing extremist groups and further radicalize those already subscribing to extremist beliefs.”
Like I said, crazy begets crazy.
The events of the past two days brought back memories of a 1999 trip our family took to attend a bar mitzvah at Congregation Beth El in Mt. Lebannon, Pa. It was a beautiful ceremony in a lovely temple.
A year later, Richard Baumhammer, an attorney with a long history of mental illness, went on a murder spree. His first victim was his neighbor, 63 year-old Anita Gordon. She was a member of Beth El. He then drove to Beth El, fired shots through the windows and painted swastikas on the building. Before he was apprehended, he went on to kill four more people, all members of racial minorities. He now sits on death row.
We live in scary, stressful times. It saddens me that our Molly is sharing a world with the likes of James von Brunn and Richard Baumhammer. I can only hope that Anne Frank was right when she wrote, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. E-mail. firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears frequently and on gainesvilletimes.com.