Civil Rights Mission

Congregation Beth El had four congregants join the Jewish Federation of Greater Fairfield County’s Civil Rights Mission.  Dorothy Grimm, Jane Steinman and Stu Steinman spoke of their experience at Shabbat services January 27.  You can watch that here.

Here is CBE member and Federation chair, Sharon DeFala’s account of the second day.

We were privileged today to sit in the company of greatness. In the back room of a small restaurant (maybe more of a combination dinette and community center) in Selma, Alabama. Author, activist, story-teller, and multiple-times convict Lynda Blackmon Lowery sat with us and explained why she started marching with Reverend Martin Luther King and John Lewis at age 13. 

She described in harrowing detail several of the times she was arrested, imprisoned, brutally beaten, deprived of food, water, air, and light. All before she reached the age of 15.

She joined the civil rights marches across the Edmund Pettis Bridge 3 times in 1963. She was the youngest member of the marches, and she was terrified. She described what she saw as she came over the bridge to the waiting rows of state troopers, county sheriffs, horses, weapons, and dogs.

What I can’t do justice to is her engaging, loving, compelling energy in giving us her testimony. She was and still is irreverent, impish, loving, and powerful. What’s more, she uplifted us, empowering us through a direct transfer of her deep spirit.

From there, we walked outside where we gathered in song, led by our trip’s Rabbi Jason Greenberg of Temple Shalom in Norwalk. And with those songs of peaceful resistance in our minds, we marched our way across that infamous bridge. We followed in the footsteps of heroes. We stepped where they did and we stood in the spot where they witnessed the troops and knew what going forward would mean. But they knew that going backward was not an option.

I hope that of all the lessons I bring home with me, this one stays most true – going backward is not an option. 

Sharon DeFala, Federation Chair