"And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away ... for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace."
Jeremiah 29.7
A note on the exhibit title: Jeremiah recounts the destruction of the Jews' First Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and the resulting exile of the Jews of the land of Judah to Babylon. There, they held initially to the belief that they would quickly be allowed to return to Jerusalem but this proved a vain hope. Writing from Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles explaining how they should live their lives in the new land in which they now found themselves. He exhorted them to build houses, plant gardens, and have sons and daughters, and said that they should "seek the peace of the city....for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace." This was, at the time, radical advice. He was saying to the exiles that they could and must be Jews even if they lived in foreign lands; that they could pray to God (who would hear them) even if they were not in the Temple in Jerusalem. Moreover, they had the positive responsibility to become good citizens of the place where they found themselves, and in that goodwill would be their safety and salvation.

Approximately 2,500 years later, Jews from different regions of Germany and Eastern Europe found themselves in exile again, escaping severe economic and social restrictions based on their religion in Germany and Czarist terror in the Russian "Pale of Settlement". They found refuge in the United States where Jefferson's wall of separation of church and state allowed them the extraordinary opportunity to live and pray as they chose, vote and hold office, and seek education. They married, had children, built new temples, contributed to and shared in the welfare and prosperity - the peace - of the regions where they settled. In Charlottesville, as elsewhere in America, the Jewish immigrants and their children followed Jeremiah's injunction.




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