Bombing in Nashville:
A Jewish Center and the Desegregation Struggle
AT 6:20 P.M. on Sunday, March 16, a Negro porter turned out the lights it, in Nashville’s Jewish Community Center and locked up for the night. Through the darkness considerable traffic flowed past 3500 West End Avenue, a sprawling structure in what used to be the elite residential section of the city. A few hundred feet to the west stood Sherith Israel, the Orthodox congregation, which worshipped in a converted mansion. A couple of blocks away- at 3814 West End Avenue-stood the handsome modern building erected by the Conservative congregation. And several miles farther west, amid the estates of Nashville’s wealthiest families, stood the Reform Temple, the largest of the three synagogues.
At 8:07 P.M., people living in the neighborhood of the Center heard a dull boom, unusual but not frightening. One lady assumed that her next-door neighbor, who is a traveling salesman, had thrown his bags tc the floor with extra vigor. At 8:27 the wife of Rabbi William B. Silverman received a telephone call from a man who said he was “a member of the Confederate Union.” “We have just dynamited the Jewish Community Center. Next will be the Temple and next will be any other nigger-loving place or nigger-loving person in Nashville. And we’re going to shoot down Judge Miller in cold blood.” Mrs. Silverman, thinking that her husband’s life would also be threatened, became so agitated that she “slammed the phone down as hard as I could.” Rabbi Silverman telephoned Federal District Court Judge Miller. Threats were nothing new to Judge William E. Miller. On September 13 he had issued a restraining order to halt threats and violence designed to prevent the integration of Nashville’s schools. From then on he had occupied a choice place in the segregationist roster of most hated men.
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