January 29, 2022

By Ben Gibson, Statesville Record & Landmark

The events of the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, may have happened hundreds of miles away, but it was a reminder for Congregation Emanuel in Statesville of the many forms of antisemitism in the world.

With World Holocaust Remembrance Day recently being observed, how could one forget?

For the president and lay clergy Beverly Maurice, she admitted, in a letter to members of Congregation Emanuel, losing faith in the country and worries people often turn a blind eye to the increasing number of antisemitic crimes committed all over the country.

She said she even considered leaving, but her daughter reminded her that would put distance between her and her family, as well as the community she serves.

“I’ve got a big role here,” Maurice said, speaking to both her position of leadership at Congregation Emanuel as well as her place within Iredell Clergy for Healing and Justice, among others.

Maurice said that after the events in Texas earlier this month, several other faith leaders in the area reached out to show their support.

“They reached out to me with love, support and encouragement,” Maurice said. “They said they were going to talk to their congregations and explain how this is not right, this is not how we treat our brothers and sisters, and to remind them this is not a Jewish problem, but a human problem.”

Currently, Congregation Emanuel isn’t meeting in person due to a number of unrelated reasons, mainly COVID-19 and inclement weather. For now, security is simpler when done over Zoom with the 40 member units — which are families or individuals — that call the synagogue home.

However, when the time is right, they plan to be back in one room while still offering a video option to others.

Open doors and arms

And while antisemitism has a long, violent history in the United States and around the world, she knows violence in places of worship isn’t limited to her faith or ethnicity.

“Security has always been a concern, not just for the synagogue, but all houses of worship,” Maurice said. “We all want to be warm and welcoming, but there are all kinds of people out there who not only want to hurt synagogue but people of all faiths.”

For her and other faith leaders, concerns with security push again the ideals of serving others. However, she feels that also with practical security measures and communicating with both other faith leaders and law enforcement, there’s a way to be open while protective.

“We are known as warm and welcoming and we don’t barricade our doors or anything like that,” Maurice said.

Maurice said she wants Congregation Emanuel to remain open not just to those of the Jewish faith, but the community as well. She said more than anything, educating others as well as themselves, and creating inter-faith understanding between different groups is important. She said if each community can create those sorts of bonds, it can make Jewish houses of worship safer, and in turn, make all places of worship safer as well.

“History does repeat itself. It needs to be taught. It happened long ago, like segregation, Jim Crow, genocide, all these things can happen again, and we don’t them to. The only way to avoid them is to teach them,” Maurice said.

She said there is plenty of common ground to be found.

“Do unto your neighbor as you would do yourself,” Maurice said. “We’ve seen that all of our commandments, all of our faiths, boil down to the same basic tenants, we just practice them differently. We all want the same good for each other.”