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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                     RABBI DAVID BAYLINSON

INTERVIEWER:                 SANDRA BERMAN

                                        RUTH EINSTEIN

LOCATION:                        ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                                 JUNE 29, 2010

SPONSORED BY:               Southern Jewish Historical Society, Marietta, Georgia

Transcript (PDF)

Rabbi David Baylinson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1929.  He talks about being ordained as a rabbi in 1957 after earning a degree from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He discusses what led to his decision to become a rabbi.  He mentions that he came from a family of non-practicing Jews but that they had observed the Passover Seder and High Holy Days.  He discusses being a student rabbi at Temple Beth-El in Anniston, Alabama, and this being his first experience in the south, where segregation was still in force.  He mentions that while in Anniston he observed a Ku Klux Klan meeting.   He discusses that he met several Holocaust survivors who were part of the Anniston congregation.

Rabbi Baylinson discusses his experiences after being ordained and serving at Temple Beth El in Detroit, Michigan and Morristown, New Jersey.  He talks about accepting the rabbinate at the Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation, a liberal synagogue in Brighton, England.   He reflects on the differences of Reform Judaism in England and the United States and the changes he implemented during his three years at the Brighton synagogue.   He describes that when he returned to the United States, he would not consider congregations in the south.  He discusses that he liked Temple Beth Or in Montgomery, Alabama, the best, of the five congregations he had looked at.  He recalls that he arrived in Montgomery in June 1965, just weeks after the Selma to Montgomery marches, to replace Rabbi Blachschleger, who had died in January of 1965.  He talks about the changes he implemented at Temple Beth Or, with a move away from Classical Reform Judaism towards Conservative Judaism and opposition he had faced. 

He discusses being active in the civil rights movement in Montgomery and the opportunities to promote integration in schools, churches, and the community.  He talks about his work and relationships he had with civil rights leaders.  He reflects that his work with civil rights began in Cincinnati when he was a student and recalls participating in picketing a restaurant and an amusement park that were segregated.     

He talks about his wife, Janice Kohl Baylinson, and their four children and grandchildren.   He discusses his wife’s teaching profession, who taught in all black schools in the Montgomery public school system prior to integration.  


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