If justice is up to us as God’s people, we must lead with compassion and not anger

By Student Rabbi Remy Liverman

During the Jewish festival of Sukkot, a part of the Jewish High Holy Days, we read from the Book of Exodus where God instructs Moses to chisel new tablets upon which God will engrave the Ten Commandments.

As Moses takes the new tablets up to Mt. Sinai, God reveals His glory to Moses, proclaiming His 13 Attributes of Mercy:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…. (Exodus 34:6-7).”

The dilemma we face when interpreting this sacred text involves understanding a God of forgiveness, love and compassion and yet also punitive retribution for the guilty.

Read More

Rabbi Emil Leipziger repudiated violence as he mourned Ida Finkelstein and George Ward

By Scott Skillman

On February 27, 1901, Rabbi Emil Leipziger led a group in solemn prayer. Still in his early 20s and just a year into his term at reform congregation Temple Israel in Terre Haute, Rabbi Leipziger now presided over the funeral of a Jewish woman barely three years younger than himself.

The rabbi mourned along with a shocked community dealing with tragic loss. And yet, when he said, “Let us repudiate this act of violence,” he did not speak only of the murdered Ida Finkelstein.

He was speaking about a historic, criminal act perpetrated by Terre Haute’s citizens in the lynching of Finkelstein’s accused murderer, a Black man named George Ward.

Read More

Bridge Project fulfills Terry Fear’s wish to recognize historic injustice in Vigo County

By Ken Turetzky

Injustice haunted Terry Fear and opposing injustice consumed her. She passed away Dec. 13, 2020, in the midst of a vigil to protest executions at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute.

Terry found no shortage of social justice causes in the present era — an oil pipeline on sacred Native American land in North Dakota, violent white supremacists in Charlottesville, migrant children detained in Florida — but died before she could help commemorate a sudden, brutal sequence of historic injustices perpetrated by citizens of her own community 120 years ago.

The violence claimed two victims — Ida Finkelstein, a Jewish schoolteacher just days short of her 21st birthday, and George Ward, a Black family man and foundry worker who was 25, according to census records.

Read More

A mob lynched his great-grandfather. Now, Terry Ward says, ‘I just want to love’

By Ken Turetzky

George Ward’s death by the vigilante injustice of lynching left a legacy of broken families and financial struggle. Only three generations later could great-grandson Terry Ward break the pattern, with the support of the nation’s social safety net.

But unexpected violence followed Terry Ward and invoked a reckoning of its own, almost a century later.

“I was born and raised in Terre Haute. I lived here for 18 years,” said Ward, 67, lingering in Fairbanks Park following the George Ward Historical Marker Dedication Sept. 26.

He tells his story patiently, unhurried, as he allows the listener to absorb his message. “We’ll try our best to be factual and truthful about all things,” he said.

Read More