Monday, September 16, 2013

16th Street Baptist Church And Hatred

Almost everyday now when I open my computer. I am confronted by virulent deep disgustingly hate filled articles. reports and Tweets of anti-Semitism / anti-Jewish / anti-Israel and anti-Zionism on Facebook , Tweeter, Instagram and on YouTube. We are reminded daily in Facebook and on Talkback areas that hatred, pure virulent hatred, racism and anti-Semitism are not dead.

The major purveyors of  this virulent filth especially on YouTube are the same ones who committed the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.murder that Sunday in 1963, the Klu Klux Klan.

The majority of the "White Extremist" hate on the Internet stems from David Ernest Duke, born July 1, 1950. He is an American "White nationalist", writer, right-wing politician, and a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Many  of the narrations on some of the most far fetched and outlandish hateful, froth filled and venomous filth was completed by a William Luther Pierce IIIPierce was a prominent anti-Semite, anti-Zionist and American (read Aryan) white nationalist (supremacist) an associate of George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party.

Dukes has aligned himself with every venue of hatred of Jews and Zionism from ‎Iran, the Palestinians and Hezbollah. He is one of the chief sources of rabid anti-‎Semitism on the World Wide Web.‎ I have tried my best to "Flag" the videos and to report the "channels" to some success but YouTube is lax in their attempts to abide by the code to prevent "Hate Speech" as set forth by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)  and the  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR's) definition of hate speech. It states:  "Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law". And the reasoning behind this is that the US Supreme Court in 1969 ruled in  Brandenburg v. Ohio "that hate speech is permissible unless it will lead to imminent hate violence."

If anything should be outlawed and banned it should be the spreading of YouTube ‎videos of abject and ‎‎utter racial hatred narrated by William ‎‎Luther Pierce or David ‎Duke’s through the use of social media on the Internet to influence young naive ‎Americans and even Europeans.‎

All of my personal efforts to remove his films has had some partial success but these websites of utter hatred are constantly rebooted to other channels on YouTube and Facebook. In many cases they are linked to websites associated with the "Pro-Falestinians" and their trolls who use those unknowing of historical truth to spread their lies and utterly despicable gross misinterpretations of history.


In the 1950s as the civil rights movement gained momentum local white supremacists led by members of the KKK reacted fiercely and violently. During this period Birmingham was known as “Bombingham” because of the numerous bombs set off at black churches and at homes of black activists — and attacks against whites who sought to upset the status quo.

Caught in the middle of all this was the relatively small Jewish community, which endured harsh anti-Semitic rhetoric by the Klan and white supremacists.

The Incident

On Sunday, September 15, 1963, four young African-American girls, Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Denise McNair (age 11), Carole Robertson (age 14), and Cynthia Wesley (age 14), were murder by the Klu Klux Klan in a racially motivated act of terrorism in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.  Bobby Frank Cherry, Thomas Blanton, Herman Frank Cash, and Robert Chambliss, members of United Klans of America, a Ku Klux Klan group, planted the box of dynamite with a time delay under the steps of the church, near the basement that murdered these innocent children.

I was only ten years old and I was in Sunday school at Temple Emanu-El on Highland Avenue when the blast occurred at the Church. I can still remember that as a seven year old Jew and a member of the kindergarten at Temple Beth-El in 1958. I nearly met the same fate as those African-American children at the hands of those very same members of the Klu Klux Klan.The same bombing method, used by Klansman Frank Cherry and his fellow Klansmen, in the horrific bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 was used in an attempted bombing by the Klu Klux Klan five years earlier at Temple Beth-El on Monday April 28, 1958.

The bomb was comprised of 54 sticks of dynamite bundled into a canvas satchel. It had been planted sometime in the darkness of that early Monday morning, had been drenched in a heavy rain. Birmingham Police Investigators found that, due to the dampness from the heavy rains, the 20-foot fuse had fizzled out with less than a minute before it would have detonated. I can only say is that the hand of God was definitely on our side that fateful day. The words "What if" is in my mind.

I remember how Karl “Bubba” Freidman and Sol Kimerling both related to me the story about the bomb found at Temple Beth-El.  Both of them acknowledged that if the tremendously destructive bomb had gone off, the explosion would have demolished Temple Beth-El and done extensive damage to nearby structures. According to the Birmingham Police Investigators the bomb itself was three times more powerful than the one that was used to kill the four young African-American girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963!

On July of 1958 The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr had stated that; "Emboldened by the obvious lack of prosecution for the 1956 bombing of the Bethel Baptist Church, the dynamiters recently crossed the color line and(attempted to) bombed a Jewish Synagogue.” 
King continues by stating; 
"Prejudiced minds, may regard this lightly and try to dismiss it as involving “only Negroes and Jews.” But this plague will surely spread unless city and state officials take stern and vigorous action to ferret out and punish both those who traffic in the sale of explosives for criminal use and those who use them. No human lives have been destroyed, as yet; but Divine Providence will not always intervene."

In my memory I can remember being hurriedly led out of the Kindergarten building to the parking lot that morning. I remember the chill and the dampness as we were hurried out the side door after the temple's janitor, James Pruitt, had found the bomb. It been planted in a basement window on the eastern wall of the school part of the Temple. Just like the bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church five years later. 

In a letter from my “Uncle Bubba” from the 20th of February 2006 he relayed to me that his wife Glady’s sister Ida Mae Seligman and his daughter Lolly were also in the Temple building. And that how he knew that Klansman William Hugh Morris had informed Police Commissioner Eugene“Bull” Connor that white supremacist lawyer Jesse Benjamin "J.B."Stoner was behind the bombing attempt. J. B. Stoner was an unapologetic racist and virulent anti-Semite whose conviction for bombing a church, divisive political campaigns and vituperation's about Jews and blacks made him a benchmark for racial extremism in the United States. Stoner had once said that "being a Jew [should] be a crime punishable by death"

In his letter“Uncle Bubba” relayed to me, how he went to speak at a memorial service for the African-American Civil Rights Lawyer Arthur Shores "Bubba" wrote how he had gone through the civil rights struggles together at the same time and that many Jews were involved in the march for civil rights.

I read with interest the articles from the Birmingham Federation Newsletter about Rabbi Milton Grafman and his stand for Civil Rights and his backing of the “A Call For Unity” and An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense  I also remember Reverend King’s replies in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail

The two most outstanding points of An Appeal for Law and Order and Common Sense in my opinion are:
  • That hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions.
  • That no person's freedom is safe unless every person's freedom is equally protected
I can remember Rabbi Grafman urging us at Temple Emanu-El not to give in to fear in a city suffering from moral apathy:
"You cannot yield to terror and violence….If you yield once you yield a second time [and] you yield a third time. And then there is nothing more to yield…you have already been captured."“I’m just sick at heart as you are about what’s happened in our city. I have been sick about it for years. Anybody with a shred of humanity in him could not have been but horrified by what happened Saturday or Sunday.”"And I’m sick at heart for a lot of other reasons. I’m sick at heart because of the attitude not of the people who either by direction or indirection were responsible for the death of those children…I’m sick at heart because of what the so-called nice people…the liberals … that sneer at everything that happens put the blame upon everyone but themselves. I am sick at heart (at) their attitude also. I am sick of and tired of finger pointing. I am weary of reasons and rationalizations. And I am weary of people congregating in their homes and their places of business over their coffee, wherever they may be…I answer to my conscience. You’ll have to answer to yours.”

Above all I remember Rabbi Grafman's words from the pulpit that Rosh Hashana morning in 1963:

“And let me say these people are primarily anti-Semitic and this is where you have got a stake. Because let me tell you, if they get away with this, nobody’s going to be safe and the first ones that will not be safe, will be the members of the Jewish community…”

He never was more right than what he stated here.


I was recently made aware of an excellent article in the Southern Jewish life Magazine with an indepth and comprehensive background of that sad period in American history, the letter by Martin Luther King and the harsh unjust criticism of Rabbi Grafman's response at that time. Specifically from those who did not know the whole truth and background of the whole affair. Rabbi Grafman was a giant among humanitarians and few know of his works and efforts on the part of the community.

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