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Grateful for Chabad opening in Lincoln

Editor's column
By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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When visiting a new town, after unpacking my bags at the motel, I used to flip through the local phone book

I was looking for the address of the nearest synagogue. It didn’t matter whether the Jewish place of worship was for the Reform, Conservative or Orthodox branches of Judaism. I just wanted to know that Jewish residents were nearby.

If the town had a synagogue, I felt welcomed.

If the nearest synagogue was two hours away or if there was not even a listing for any synagogue, I’d question whether local residents would welcome me.

That’s because a substantial percentage of students and their parents, when I attended public schools, only tolerated my Jewish friends and me.  

It was never anything we said or did to make our young peers resent us. They didn’t like us because of false statements they heard from their parents.

Like we killed Jesus on the cross (of course, not true) or that we don’t belong in the United States (again, not true).

Some of the more ignorant students whispered in class, only to jeer loudly during recess in the playground, that we smelled like pigs (because Conservative and Orthodox Jews can’t eat any food made from pigs).

It didn’t get any easier after college. I cringed every time someone I previously considered highly-educated would make a comment about someone jewing someone else

down. I would too frequently hear this comment, which refers to getting the cheapest price by haggling, in business meetings and in public places such as the gym. For me, it is a highly-offensive word.

Years later, it was just as hard explaining to my children why we had guards at our synagogue doors during Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, our High Holidays; or why Jewish community centers were randomly being set on fire.

So I’m glad that Chabad will open in Lincoln this July. While 95-plus percent of residents don’t judge others on their religions (or race for that matter), it still hurts when strangers and acquaintances make stereotypical comments.

Having Chabad here will show some of these strangers and acquaintances first-hand that Jewish people have the same values and hopes that they have and that there’s nothing to fear.

I hope that the 5 percent of residents who make fun of others because of their religion (as well as race) will see that diversity is actually good for a community.

“I’m very happy that another house of worship will be located in Lincoln. I wish them the most success possible,” said Lincoln Mayor Peter Gilbert. “A community with many houses of worship puts the community in a position to have many different opportunities for the residents.” 

During this week of Passover, which is the Jewish eight-day festival commemorating Moses leading the Jews out of slavery in Egypt, I’m thankful there will soon be a place of worship for me.

Perhaps out-of-towners in the near future considering a move to Lincoln will, when looking at the phone book, see that everyone is welcome, regardless of religion.