Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion

Why they should change the names of Hollywood streets

I live in Hollywood, Florida.

Just driving in my city is a lesson in American history. Many of the east-west streets are named for American presidents (yes, there is only one Adams Street, and one Harrison Street, and one Roosevelt Street).

And then, when they ran out of presidents, they started naming streets after generals — among them, Civil War generals.

My synagogue is on Sheridan Street — named for General Philip Sheridan, of the Union Army.

But, here’s the big question that everyone in town is talking about:

What about the Confederate generals?

Because we have streets named for:

If you were to drive along Forrest Street, Lee Street, and Hood Street, you would notice that they run through a particular neighborhood.

That would be the Liberia community.

Which is African American.

Imagine. You are a Liberia resident. You are African American. You are the descendant of slaves.

And, every day, you drive on a street named for General Forrest — a man who helped create an organization that is best known for lynching black people.

So, Hollywood joins the club — of southern locales that must now cope with the bleakest elements of the Southern past.

Places like Charleston, where, after the 2015 church massacre, the rebel flag was removed from the state capitol.

Like Georgia and Virginia, which ordered an end to specialty license plates that featured the Confederate flag.

And, places like Mississippi, Baltimore, and Louisville, and New Orleans, where there have been battles over Confederate monuments.

Not everyone is in favor of changing the names of those Confederate general streets in Hollywood.

Some say that it would be a nuisance to suddenly wind up with a different street address, that they would never get their mail. I sympathize.

But, others say that those names represent precious history – specifically, Confederate history.

One protester said: “We are not racists. We are not white supremacists. We are defenders of Confederate heritage. We’re not about hate. We are about heritage.”

But, it got worse. Some protesters at a recent Hollywood City Council meeting chanted white supremacist slogans.

Some waved Confederate symbols and white nationalist flags.

Some of them called a black state legislator, Representative Shevrin Jones, the “n word.” Some called him a monkey. Some told him: “Go back where you came from.”

Those protesters do not represent my city. If anything, Hollywood is a model for cultural diversity. When I go to a local restaurant, I eat my meal in a post-Babel of English, Spanish, Hebrew, and French.

The defenders of Lee, Hood, and Forrest say that they are merely arguing in favor of historical memory.

Well, two can play that game.

Except, my memory is of the path that blacks and Jews have walked together in this country.

  • The memory of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, murdered by Southern racists in 1964, and buried in a shallow grave in Mississippi. James Chaney was a black man. Schwerner and Goodman were New York Jews.
  • The memory of Southern synagogues that were bombed in the 1950s and 1960s, because their rabbis were preaching about the need for integration.
  • The memory of Rabbi Joachim Prinz, one of the greatest rabbis of Germany in the 1930s. In the late 1930s, Rabbi Prinz came to America, and he became the rabbi at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, New Jersey, formerly in Newark.

Rabbi Prinz was the “opening act” for Martin Luther King at the March on Washington.

This is what he said:

When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, the most important thing that I learned was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.

It is not our task to erase Southern history.

But it is our human task to understand the pain that this history causes in our neighbors.

Two rabbis are talking. One says to the other: “I love you – you know that, don’t you?”

The other one responds: “But, do you know what causes me pain? If you don’t know what causes me pain, how can you say that you love me?”

That is the central commandment of the Torah: love your neighbor as yourself – which actually doesn’t mean loving the people who live near you, on your street – but it certainly includes them.

To love our neighbors — wherever we live — is to know what gives them pain.

 

 

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

5 Comments

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  • Both sides of that war were terrible. Slavers on one side, literal war criminals on the other. Let’s get rid of things that honor Confederates, YES. But let’s get rid of the things that honor the Union too. Targeting of civilians, destruction of crops, and an attempt to starve out the enemy through a scorched earth campaign should not be justified no matter what the motive of the warriors.

    Then let’s get rid of the Vietnam memorials too. Why on EARTH do we honor the same men who perpetrated the My Lai Massacre?! Then let’s get rid of the RAF monument in Britain. Those war criminals firebombed a city full of refugees fleeing Nazi oppression!!

    I’m ALL for getting rid of monuments made in honor of and to glorify the horrors of war.

    But I don’t like people like you who whitewash the other sides of conflicts. You blindly PRETEND that there’s nothing wrong with a street or monument named in honor of a warmonger that actually WON their war.

    You MENTION in this article Sheridan Street in DIRECT COMPARISON to the streets you want to rename, but NEVER ONCE do you think to even QUESTION why your Synagogue’s street should be named after a man who employed MASS ARSON in his war tactics without a second thought!!

    Get rid of the slavers, SURE, but how DARE you play apologist for a freaking ARSONIST.

    You whitewash one side, ignore their crimes, and act BLINDLY and ETHNOCENTRICALLY as if your country has NEVER DONE ANY WRONG. It’s a toxic worldview you have where you can question streets named to honor to “the enemy” but NEVER ONCE question the street named after an ARSONIST, just because that arsonist had the good fortune of being on the right side!!

    Until this sickening favoritism ceases, you won’t have the moral high ground necessary to remove the monuments to hate and blood and death that litter this country. You blind yourself to your own country’s crimes.

  • Street names are primarily a means of direction finding, and while some streets are named for people who might be remembered differently by different people for different reasons, to get one’s knickers in a twist over it is silly. What if a street is named Lee, or Hood, or Forrest, for reasons that have nothing to do with the Civil War? Does that mean when someone sees such an example of nomenclature their mind defaults to the negative? We have more important things to worry about than this.

  • Bro…i don’t think you understand this correctly….

    During the civil war there was two sides. You’re 100% correct.
    One side won, one side lost.
    The union won, the confederate states lost.
    The America we live in today, is a post-union america.
    There is NO reason anyone OTHER than Union soliders are honored, but they were at the time, it was to heal the wounds of the divide.
    It’s been a good 150-200 years almost…
    They’ve had their time to be honored, and whether or not the union did some questionable stuff, they won. They get to decide what is what. Wanna know why? Because they won. Same thing with germany, japan, etc. Wanna know why they ban the nazi symbol? Well…it’s probably because they lost?

    You see, when you win a war, battle, conflict. It doesn’t matter what is ‘sensible, or unbiased’. Whoever has the gun pointed at your head is gonna tell you the way it is, whether you like it or not.
    So unless the entire Southern Pride Movement is ready for civil war 2.0 vs. The Entirety of the Union + American Populace + Armed Services, I think it’s best they just face the result of losing the civil war. Continue to live in the peace they can, without getting killed over ‘historical pride’. I’m sure generals lee and hood will have a seat for them waiting in heaven.

    “You blind yourself to your own country’s crimes.” —
    Idk where you’re from bro, but you can get the f u c k out of my america i’ll even pay for your one way ticket out of here.

  • Better yet change the official reason for the street names:

    Lee (Strasberg) Street for the founder of method acting.

    Forrest (Tucker) street for the longtime character actor, F Troop is a classic

    (Darla Jean) Hood street for Our Gang actress and frequent foil for Spanky and Alfalfa.

  • Nope no moral equivalency there. A union victory preserved the nation and led to the beginning of recognition of civil liberties. A confederate victory would have been a mess for all.

    History has absolved the Union. Confederates had it coming. Sheridan and Sherman’s tactics eventually ended slavery, a far greater good.

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