Members of New Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church in West Garfield Park, and members of Oak Park Temple are making Chicago Proud! On a recent trip to Washington D.C., this group visited the National Holocaust Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture together.
These folks from the African-American Community and the Jewish Community started the weekend as two groups and ended as one. Their story actually began several years ago after the Charleston South Carolina Church shooting.
"It was Father's Day 2015 and we put out a call for a unity service and people flooded from Oak Park into West Garfield Park," said Senior Pastor Marshall Hatch of New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.
"Reverend Hatch and I had the opportunity to travel to Israel together and during that time we got to know each other pretty well, and we started talking about things we could do to bring our communities together," said Rabbi Max Weiss of the Oak Park Temple B'nail Abraham Zion.
They both agreed that travel would be a wonderful way to do that, and what better way than a trip to learn each other's stories and histories. The weekend in D.C. began on a Friday afternoon when the group of 28 met for the first time at the National Holocaust Museum.
"This country is so divided by so many things, by color, by race, by ethnicity, by gender and anything and everything we do that helps bridge those gaps and help people see one another as just other people is what we need to do," said Liz Simon, a member of the Oak Park Temple.
Upon entering the museum, everyone wasgiven an identification card with the name and information of an actual person who experienced the Holocaust. You move through the exhibit in chronological order, Hitler's rise to power, anti-Semitic propaganda, and the horrors of the Final Solution. It was powerful, emotional and enlightening.
The majority of the group entered this journey with no expectations, whatever was going to happen would happen, and many were surprised by what did happen.
"I'm listening to Hitler speeches in the museum and learning about the lead-up to the Holocaust," said Oak Park Temple member Susan Stephens. "What started to echo in my mind is what's happening in our country now."
"All you see is the shoes, on the back wall it says this is the only thing that they didn't burn and it just touched my heart when I saw that," said Major Purcell, a member of New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.
"To show how much we're similar, to show how much our backgrounds of what our ancestors went through were so much alike, and the same hatred and power," said Zina Riley, a member of New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.
The day ended on a positive note with Shabbat services at Temple Micah and a growing comfort level among the group.
At that service the group discovered another similarity - music, singing and joyful spirituality in prayer. Wednesday, we'll explore the National Museum of African American History and Culture and see how everybody processed this whirlwind trip.