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My childhood summers were spent traveling around the country.
My parents wanted my brother and me to learn about and appreciate the country to which our grandparents had immigrated to create new lives for themselves and their children.
We visited many state capitals, entering some of the capitol buildings, and, at the United States Capitol, we sat in the Senate gallery on a day of relative quiet.
We explored the Rocky Mountains, ascended Mount Evans, and rode across the precarious bridge over Royal Gorge. We visited Mesa Verde National Park, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Carlsbad Caverns, El Paso and Juarez.
Most years, we traveled east. I remember President Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield (and his tomb). We spent time at Gettysburg and Antietam to deepen our knowledge of major Civil War battles.
We saw the sites of the first battles of the Revolutionary War at Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill. We toured President George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, and President Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. We visited the Statue of Liberty, as well as the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall.
We went to the top of the Washington Monument, stood inside the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials and gazed at the memorial flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy.
Rhonda and I took our son, Adam, to many places I had not yet visited, including the Grand Canyon, Ellis Island, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Adam and I also toured the Baseball and Basketball Halls of Fame.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the museum and memorial at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City challenged us to consider how to combat hatred in all its forms. Rhonda and I did the same at the 9/11 museum in New York City.
My rabbinic convention in 2017 took us to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. We paid our respects at the graves of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. We sat in the original Ebenezer Baptist Church. We were welcomed at the center of the The Names Project/AIDS Quilt.
Adam and I attended the 2004 dedication of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, commemorating the United States Supreme Court decision to end racial segregation in America’s schools (a short distance from our home).
There are many places to explore locally and in our state that are integral to the American story, offering reminders to recognize narratives told from different perspectives, to which, I know, I need to listen.
I know, also, that I need to pray. These words conclude a prayer for our nation in the Reform Jewish prayerbook, Mishkan T’filah: “Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit.”
May we truly appreciate one another, especially at this time of challenge, and may we add new and positive chapters to our shared story.
Rabbi Larry Karol served as spiritual leader of Temple Beth-El (www.tbelc.org) in Las Cruces from July 2011 to July 2020. His writings are available at rabbilarrykarol.blogspot.com.