Book: The Temple Bombing

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The Temple Bombing

Author: Melissa Fay Greene
Publisher: Perseus Books Group

On October 12, 1958, Atlanta’s oldest synagogue was blown apart by 50 sticks of dynamite. Suddenly, the Jewish Reform community found itself caught in the crossfire of white-black hostilities. As this historical narrative weaves together the emotional events that led to the bombing, it introduces us to brave warriors like Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, the lightning rod for the pre-dawn attack, as well as violent characters whose intolerance and rage shattered the illusions of a quiet people.


When the United States South went into an uproar over the 1954 Supreme Court decision in favor of integration, Jacob Rothschild—rabbi of the Temple, Atlanta’s oldest and richest synagogue—responded with an outspoken defense of civil rights. “He was aware that he lived in strange times, when the pronouncement of elemental moral observations stirred political havoc.” The bombing of the Temple by neo-Nazi extremists in 1958 was but one climactic moment in a progression of conflicting messages and class struggles experienced by Jews in the post-war South. Melissa Fay Greene is a fine storyteller with a rich, literary style: she portrays the social setting, as well as the crime itself and its aftermath, with a plethora of compelling details. By the end of the book, when Rabbi Rothschild is hosting a dinner for Martin Luther King in honor of his Nobel Peace Prize, the reader has gained a solid sense of a pivotal time and place in Southern history.

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