Jews of Dothan, Alabama, say neighbors are not anti-Semites
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Jews of Dothan, Alabama, say neighbors are not anti-Semites

Local leader rejects characterization of city in recent Washington Post article. ‘I found people to be respectful of our heritage’

Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith and her husband, Rob Goldsmith, in front of their synagogue in Dothan, Alabama, where Jews can receive up to $50,000 for relocating there for at least five years. (Rob Goldsmith/JTA)
Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith and her husband, Rob Goldsmith, in front of their synagogue in Dothan, Alabama, where Jews can receive up to $50,000 for relocating there for at least five years. (Rob Goldsmith/JTA)

JTA — Jewish leaders from Dothan, Alabama say their non-Jewish neighbors were unfairly smeared as intolerant in an article about a Jewish couple’s dilemma over staying in the town.

A Washington Post article published last week profiled Lisa and Kenny Priddle, who took an offer of up to $50,000 to move to the small southern city and help revitalize its Jewish community.

But now the couple is considering a return to New York, due to feeling uncomfortable as Jews in Dothan, and feeling burnt out in their attempts to build the community.

In the past decade, seven of 11 families that accepted the grants, offered by local philanthropist Larry Blumberg through the local Family Jewish Community Services, have left.

Larry Blumberg, founder of Blumberg Family Jewish Community Services of Dothan, discusses their relocation program at Temple Emanu-El in Dothan, Alabama, on October 2, 2013. (AP/Dave Martin)

The former rabbi of the local synagogue, Lynne Goldsmith, wrote in the local Dothan Eagle that the article “mischaracterizes” the town.

“I can honestly say that I never experienced anti-Semitism while living in Dothan, and most Dothan Jews share this aspect of our life here,” she wrote. “And I never felt unsafe even while spending long hours in the synagogue alone or wearing a kippah (yarmulke) in public. I found people to be respectful of our heritage and beliefs, and while there was much lack of knowledge about Jews and Judaism, in general people were willing to learn about us.”

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