There, I said it.
This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I’ve never actually said those words publicly to a broad audience. (Please note I’ve never hidden my Judaism and most of my Christian friends know my religion.)
But when I began elementary school, my parents gave me one clear piece of advice. “Don’t under any circumstance discuss religion or politics.”
I didn’t understand why at the time, but as I grew older, the reason became clear. I was born in 1943, a period when the Nazis were in the process of murdering six million Jews including 1.5 million children. If I had been born in Eastern Europe I likely would have died in a gas chamber.
No wonder my parents were paranoid about me discussing my religion.
Therefore, one of my life’s great blessings is that I was born in America.
Another one of my great blessings is that I live in Birmingham.
I have gotten my positive perspective on being Jewish in Birmingham from other Jews who don’t live here and from my life-long Birmingham experiences.
Jewish people from other parts of our country don’t think there are Jews here. Admittedly, there aren’t many–about 5,000 out of a metro population of about 1.1 million. (Less than ½%)
And Jews from elsewhere sometimes assume that because Birmingham was once known for church bombings and other civil rights atrocities that our neighbors might be hostile.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
It’s true our community is very Christian, but our Christian neighbors are helpful and generous to a fault.
I may be naive, but I’ve never openly experienced anti-Semitism here.
I’ve been given the opportunity to serve in major Birmingham community leadership positions and have always been made to feel appreciated and valued.
Though we are small in number, I’m also very proud of our local Jewish community.
All our synagogues take active roles in our broader community; our Levite Jewish Community Center serves many families who aren’t Jewish; our Collat Jewish Family Services is dedicated to meeting the needs of people in both the Jewish and general communities; and our Birmingham Jewish Federation brings different faith and ethnic groups together and is one of the first in line to help our greater community in times of need.
God Bless America.
God bless Birmingham.
David Sher’s goal is to create a conversation on how to fix our fragmented and dysfunctional local government.
David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Content Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).