Some reflections on the Jews in Charlottesville

My grandfather, Sol H. Young, was born in Chweidan (Kvedarna), Lithuania, in 1896 and served from 1956-1958 as mayor of Cadillac, Michigan. He was not a religious man, thoroughly enjoying a secular life in small-town northern Michigan.

Thoughts of him came to mind recently with events in Charlottesville, Va.

Attorney Alan Zimmerman, president of Congregation Beth El in Charlottesville, noted, "On Saturday morning, I stood outside our synagogue with the security guard we hired after the police department refused to provide us with an officer during the morning service."

The mayor of Charlottesville, Mike Signer, had remarked in January, in a speech declaring C'ville a "Center of Resistance," describing his grandfather as a 'Jewish kid raised in the Bronx'"

What kind of a Jewish mayor refuses the synagogue in his town protection from an out-of-town threat?

I was only a young child when Sol served as mayor. I was about to have a bar mitzvah when his only son, Larry G. Young, was taken ill while celebrating Rosh Hashana dinner in 1960 with his parents in Cadillac and was driven days later from Ferris Institute's infirmary to UMich Medical Center in Ann Arbor, passing away on Yom Kippur, 1960.

Larry ran track and played the trumpet.

It was at the end of my freshman year in college, after election as class president, that I received the following letter on stationery of Sol H. Young, Iron & Metal Co.:

Dear Elliot,

Because you are our grandson, and because you have applied yourself in your studies, and are following in the Family Tradition and have won this high honor, and because some day you are going to marry a Nice Jewish Girl, here is an addition to the Elliot Eisenberg College Fund.

A check for ten dollars was attached.

Sol died less than a year later.

I share these memories because liberal Jewish clergy seem enamored of the Mike Signer Jewish trajectory: law degree, Ph.D. from Princeton, political activism, candidacy for public office.  Snowflakes rather than strength in the face of snowfalls.

I was only a college sophomore when Sol died, but I knew him fairly well.  He was an intensely practical man.  When an auto parts maker expressed interest in establishing operations in Cadillac, he offered the city garage.  "We can find another building; we can't find the jobs," he said.

My guess is that he had moved my grandmother (over her objections) and their four children to Cadillac because of the similarities in climate and small-town feel to that of an even smaller town in Lithuania.  Even the maps of Michigan (left-hand mitten) and the Baltics (right-hand mitten) are similar.

I cannot imagine him refusing police protection to a church or a synagogue or a business in the town that he loved if it were faced with the kind of threats that appeared in Charlottesville.  In fact, I cannot imagine him not standing, shoulder to shoulder, with the guards in those doorways, whatever the denomination.

And if, for some reason, he was incapacitated or out of town, I know without thinking that my grandmother Fannie, as toughened as he was, would be there in his stead.