The Gordon Jewish Community Center (Nashville - Davidson County)

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Title

The Gordon Jewish Community Center (Nashville - Davidson County)

Description

Like other Jewish communities in the South, by the turn of the twentieth century, Nashville’s Jewish community sought to establish an institution that could serve and unite all branches of the community. The first institution, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, was founded in 1902 and was the first organization to focus on “the mental, moral, and physical condition of its members.” Following the patterns of nearly every Jewish institution in the city, the YMHA first used rented spaces to conduct community services, before purchasing its own building in 1907. In 1908, the new YMHA building was dedicated and quickly became a focal point for Nashville’s Jewish life. With the establishment of a women’s branch, the Young Women’s Hebrew Association, the combined YM/YWHA purchased a larger, four-story building in 1924. As the YM/YWHA played the role of uniting the community through physical and mental health programs, libraries, and swimming pools, these associations formed the foundation for the establishment of a formal Jewish Community Center in the 1948.
Just ten years after the construction of a new Jewish Community Center at 3500 West End Avenue, the Nashville Jewish community would fall victim to the anti-integrationist and anti-Jewish attitudes that emerged in white supremacist groups in the 1950s. At 8:07 p.m. on March 16, 1958, a homemade explosive device detonated, damaging the front Jewish Community Center’s front entrance. The attack occurred after the youth basketball team and completed their evening practice, and thankfully no one was injured. While no one was brought to justice for this attack, the Confederate Underground, a southern nationalist organization, took credit for the attack and claimed Jewish support of integration as their motivation. This attack was a part of a larger string of anti-Jewish terrorist attacks in the late-1950s, as well as part of a group of three attacks targeting Nashville integrationists. Thankfully, the damage was primarily cosmetic, and the Jewish Community Center remained in operation at its West End location until 1984. Following the westward migration of the Jewish community, in 1984 the Gordon Jewish Community Center was opened on Percy Warner Boulevard where it continues to operate today.

Source

Betsy Phillips, “Marking the 60th Anniversary of the Jewish Community Center Bombing,” Nashville Scene, March 12, 2018. https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/20995957/marking-the-60th-anniversary-of-the-jewish-community-center-bombing. Accessed March 23, 2019.

Date

1984

Contributor

Johnson, Elizabeth, photographer.

Coverage

20th century

Citation

“The Gordon Jewish Community Center (Nashville - Davidson County),” Tennessee Jewish Heritage Digital Archive Project, accessed December 11, 2019, http://tennesseejewishheritage.org/items/show/62.

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