“Momma Bears” Shake Up Birmingham
By Samantha Dubrinsky,
BJF Director of Community Impact
In the middle of the bomb scares, the pressure, the confusion, the anxiety, the disruption on our Montclair Road Jewish Community Campus and throughout much of the Jewish world that occurred over a recent two month period, there was one bright spot — a new radiance and burst of volunteer leadership: The Momma Bears.
Though the bomb scares turned out to be false, and, in a bizarre twist, initiated by a Jew living in Israel who reportedly suffers from some mental problems, the saga, while it was unfolding, was startlingly jarring and gave all of us a feeling of what it might be like to be under attack by authentic anti-Semites.
And even as the mystery behind who was making the bulk of these calls was being solved, other anti-Semitic attacks in our country — such as the desecration of Jewish graves, attacks against Jews on the Internet and the firing of a bullet through the window of an Indiana synagogue — continued.
I had heard about the Momma Bears — these women have become somewhat of a legend — but it wasn’t until I met them in person that I realized just how much these young moms are shaking up Birmingham and our Jewish community.
It was a Sunday afternoon and the “Momma Bears” gathered in the Birmingham Jewish Federation office. BJF Executive Director Richard Friedman, Projects & Special Events Coordinator Florina Newcomb and I sat down with these four moms to talk about the recent bomb threats that had been called into the Montclair Jewish Community Campus.
The “Momma Bears” or “Moms,” as the Federation staff has begun to refer to them, are all mothers of Levite Jewish Community Center’s Cohn Early Childhood Learning Center and N.E. Miles Jewish Day School students. After the bomb threats were called in, these moms, who previously were not connected to one another, banded together to create some change in the Birmingham community.
Lead by Rebekah Weinberger, who grew up in the Birmingham Jewish community, these moms have coordinated media efforts to educate the public on what is happening, met with other faith groups to build relationships and contacted elected officials to change the law surrounding hate crimes.
These women — Rebekah, Honora Gathings, Emma Black and Jessica Dolly — all have full-time jobs, but have dedicated themselves to fighting this new wave of anti-Semitism and protecting their children. Of the four, only Rebekah is Jewish.
BRINGING COMMUNITIES TOGETHER
Since that first Sunday meeting, Richard and I have kept in touch with the Moms over the past few months and have been continually impressed with how much they have accomplished in such a short period of time.
The Moms are working with lawmakers to make the community safer and create harsher punishments for those who make threats such as the ones the Birmingham Jewish community experienced earlier this year.
Wanting to create experiences for their children to learn about other faiths and cultures, the Moms asked the BJF to help facilitate a story time that brought together Christian, Jewish and Muslim families. At the story time, the children learned about being kind, creating friendships despite differences and about one another’s cultures.
Additionally, the Moms are organizing an event called Rally Together Birmingham. The mission of Rally Together Birmingham is to create opportunities for all religions, races, and creeds to gather in fellowship and learn more about one another, our shared beliefs and differences.
The event will take place on Sunday, May 21, 2017, at Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. Birmingham’s Mayor William Bell will be at the rally to share his hopes and dreams for a brighter future for the people of Birmingham.
This group of women has also brought the parents of the LJCC’s Cohn Early Childhood Learning Center and the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School closer together. They are committed to making the Montclair Road campus safe for all and communicating that to parents.
Rebekah also created a logo, which has been featured in Update, to show support for the Jewish community during this time. The BJF has used this logo to create car magnets for those who would like to show their support for the Birmingham Jewish community. If you would like a car magnet, please contact Florina Newcomb at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Supplies are limited.)
Though I don’t have children of my own, the actions of the Moms has inspired me. Their love for their children and this community has motivated them to act swiftly and to create change. They have bumped up against some challenges, but have persisted. They are all action, not just talk. It’s inspiring.
This group of women, as they have assured me several times, won’t stop pushing forward anytime soon. And we, at the Birmingham Jewish Federation, are grateful for their tenacity and dedication. I can’t think of a time that their leadership could be needed more.
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