An Unexpected Turn by Emily Zimmern

This blog is part of Temple Beth El’s Elul Blog Project. Read more about this year’s project. 

Back in April of this year (2021), after dropping off a bouquet of daffodils from our yard for a friend’s Passover table, I was headed home to finish preparing for our Seder.  It was a little after noon and I had much left to do. But instead of turning toward home, I made a spontaneous decision to go in the opposite direction. I recalled a mention on the morning news and chose to drive to Marshall Park to attend a rally against anti-Asian hate.  The NAACP and various Asian American organizations were responding to the horrific shooting of six Asian American women in Atlanta the previous week.

By the time I arrived, I was disappointed to discover that the speeches had already concluded.  Then one of the organizers with a bullhorn requested that everyone line up six across for a march.  Wanting to stand in solidarity, I joined in.  Not knowing another person there, I walked along and joined in the chants.  “Whose streets?  Our streets.  Whose city?  Our city.”  “Two, four, six, eight, no time for hate.”   Having been largely in isolation at home for the first ten months of the pandemic before being vaccinated, I now felt an odd mix of exhilaration and introspection to be back physically in the community and able to give voice to my views in this unexpected venue.

At the end of the march, a mic was set up and the young people present were invited to share their experiences.  Their stories were touching and heartbreaking. They reported racial slurs at school, parents who felt discriminated against at work, and arriving in a new country and having no one to explain how to navigate their new lives.  The last speaker charged the crowd to “walk together to overcome hatred and violence against all groups.”

That evening the Haggadah’s message resonated especially powerfully: we must welcome the stranger, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Former President of Levine Museum of the New South, Emily Zimmern has long been active in community affairs in Charlotte.  She and husband Sam have been members of Temple Beth El since 1982.