My sister in Livingston forwarded me your recent article about the sale of Temple Israel of Union to a mosque. (“Former Union synagogue sold to Islamic center,” Oct. 28.). For the record, I was the first bar mitzva at the new Temple Israel of Union on April 28, 1962. In fact, the temple was still under construction at the time, but my parents agreed to go through with it anyway. I truly felt honored by the occasion. In spite of all of the construction, it was fun to be first.
Your article mentioned the memories of a member of the former Jewish congregation about pro-Nazi activities in Union during the 1960s. While Union had a sizeable German-American population at the time, including many pro-Nazi sympathizers, I can’t say that I personally felt victimized by them. I knew that they were present, even in my own immediate neighborhood and in my schools, but I don’t believe that their presence ever had a significant impact on my childhood. Hopefully, their daily interaction with me gave them sufficient pause that I too was just another human being and didn’t belong in Auschwitz. But who knows?
You also mentioned Temple Israel’s very modest beginnings at the storefront facility on Stuyvesant Avenue near the Union-Irvington border, close to Olympic Park, which is such a huge and dear part of my childhood. I remember riding the green Number 5 bus twice a week for several years from Burnet Junior High to this early Temple Israel in order to attend Hebrew School. Perhaps some of your other readers can recall such an experience.
As to the fact that Temple Israel of Union has become a mosque, I believe that this is a sign of our times and indicates a clear transition within our society, not just in Union but even more so in places like Middlesex County, middle Tennessee, southeastern Michigan, and many other places throughout our nation. I note especially how open-minded and tolerant many of the members of the former Temple Israel are toward their Muslim successors. I can only hope and pray that the Muslim community in Union, South Brunswick, Nashville, Detroit, and anywhere else in this country are as open-minded and tolerant toward other Americans as the members of the former Temple Israel of Union are toward them. May the members of these Muslim communities be loyal to America and help us combat the Islamic-based terrorism that continues to threaten our nation every single day.