Jewish Groups Launch Efforts to Help Burned Black Churches

The Sunday after a fire destroyed the Matthews Murckland Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, N.C., members of the local Jewish community showed solidarity by joining the black congregation in services.

“On this one day of worship, the people of God stood together,” the Rev. Larry Hill said during a visit here this week. “Jewish life in the world has been very similar to black life. The differences that arise from time to time” do not pull us apart.

Hill addressed Tuesday the New York Board of Rabbis, which, together with the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, has established a fund to help rebuild his Charlotte church.

It is “very, very important that the Jewish community not be so arrogant and naive to think that this could not happen to synagogues,” said Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the foundation. He added that Jews should be “rallying together with our brothers and sisters in the South.”

The rabbincial board is among several Jewish organizations that have responded to the rash of arson attacks that have struck at least 37 Southern churches, most of them predominantly black, in the past 18 months.

On Wednesday, the American Jewish Committee launched a fund-raising effort to rebuild the burned churches in conjunction with the National Council of Churches and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The burning of a house of worship is an assault on the soul and spirit of the entire human family,” the three groups said in an ad in The New York Times.

Meanwhile, in full-page ads last Friday in the Washington Post, The New York Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Anti-Defamation League urged readers to “speak out,” write letters of support to members of the churches involved and “contribute as much as you can to help rebuild these houses of worship.”

In addition to raising funds, Jewish groups were pressing federal authorities to intensify their efforts to apprehend the arsonists.

These are “the same cowardly Nazi actions that we are seeing in the United States today,” said Kenneth Lipper, a New York investment banker who pledged to match the first $100,000 raised for the rabbinical board’s fund.

Hill was presented with an initial $10,000 cash gift on behalf of the New York Jewish community.

“I’m pleased to know do not live in my community, who are not of my race, think enough of the whole panorama of religion in this country to stand beside us,” said Hill.

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