B’nai Jacob is a warm and welcoming Jewish community in Jersey City. A place where friends and family connect with each other, engage in meaningful prayer, and discover new ways to celebrate our traditions and culture. We celebrate Judaism in a vibrant, fun, creative, warm and life-affirming manner and welcome all with warmth and hospitality. We support the State of Israel and acknowledge its vital importance to our congregation and the Jewish people. We embrace the diversity of our community and strive to be inclusive and cohesive, caring and welcoming.
Congregation B’nai Jacob thanks the Violet Zall Hordes Foundation for their generous grant to support our religious programs and services.
Thank you to the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Hudson County Regional Council for their support!
WE STAND TOGETHER
As Jews, Jersey City residents, Congregation B’nai Jacob congregants and Americans, our hearts are broken by this week’s events in our city. The senseless slaughter of Jersey City Police Detective Joseph Seals, followed by the deliberate attack on a Jewish business resulting in the death of Moshe Deutsch, Leah Ferencz and Miguel Douglas Rodriguez, are tragedies none of us will ever forget. We join other communities and houses of worship in prayer for the families who have lost their precious loved ones in this terrible week.
Trying to make sense of this, my thoughts turn to my grandfather, Chaim (“Hymie”) Siegel. Though he died before I was born, he animated my life through family stories. Chaim came to this country as an immigrant and suffered great poverty. He left school at 14 to work full time at a printing and engraving shop called Turner Brothers; he would work there for the rest of his life
When he was 45 years old, the Turners wanted to sell the business. Chaim, an ambitious and frugal businessman, managed to raise the munificent sum of $800 to buy it. But he feared their many elite clients would not want to do business with a proprietor named Chaim Siegel. So, he went to court to change his name to Herbert Turner. Grandfather was formidable. He made his adult children, who sometimes helped him in the shop, change their names too; thus, the concealment of Jewish identity was completed.
Among our family records are legal papers that show the name-changes and the Turner Brothers bill of sale. Grandfather ran Turner Brothers successfully until the day he died on the shop floor. Was the name-change necessary? I don’t know. I do know Grandfather’s documents convey a fundamental tension in the Jewish-American story: we have great success, and yet we are the “other”: sometimes respected, sometimes a curiosity, sometimes despised.
For the most part, we have long enjoyed our American success in safety. Then came Pittsburgh. Then Poway. And now this week in Jersey City we have been reminded in the most violent way of our “otherness.” Of course, Jews are not the only “other” in American life; African Americans have long suffered violence as the “other”; the terrible shooting in El Paso had a “goal” of killing Hispanics.
E Pluribus Unum: From the many, one. The Founders anticipated that our nation would be a hodgepodge of “others” who would have to come together as one. Together we are stronger. Together we are safer. Together we can move dialog and understanding forward.
We can take heart and strength in knowing that local and state government stand with the Jewish community. Love, tolerance, community, action, teshuvah,tefillah and tzedakah: these are ways forward in this difficult time.
Carla Main, CBJ Member
Jersey City, NJ
December 13, 2019