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Not Alone: “Righteous Gentiles” Protected Me at Charlottesville

Muslims form a protective circle around Jews praying at a synagogue in Oslo, Norway, 2015.

Muslims form a protective circle around Jews praying at a synagogue in Oslo, Norway, 2015.

It was a buggy, Wednesday evening on August 9 in Charlottesville. I stood in the parking lot of Sojourners Church after attending one final, non-violent direct action training prior to August 12. There was a sense of fear and trepidation in the thick humid summer air. Perhaps you felt it too, wherever you were.

I had a plan for August 12. I would stand on the steps of First United Methodist Church, often called FUMC, bear witness to the rally in the park, just across the street, and drown out the sound of hate with music of peace and love. But I was afraid to station myself so close to the park. My Muslim friend, who initially planned to sing on the steps with me, decided that it would be too dangerous for her to be visible wearing her hijab, so she took another important—but less public—role that day. I wondered if I should follow her lead, and get out of sight. What if neo-Nazis or white supremacists attempted to enter the church? What if they stormed the steps where I would be standing in my tallis and kippah?