The Temple Bombing


In 1958, anti-Semitic white supremacists dynamited Atlanta’s oldest Jewish synagogue, whose rabbi, Pittsburgh-born Jacob Rothschild, was an outspoken advocate of integration. A trial of the accused terrorists ended in a hung jury, and a second trial in acquittal. The Reform Jewish Temple became a rallying point uniting blacks and Jews in efforts for racial justice, and Rabbi Rothschild (who died in 1974 at the age of 62) befriended Martin Luther King Jr., who in 1960 moved home to Atlanta, the scene of many critical confrontations in the early civil rights movement. Greene recreates these events in a spellbinding narrative written with fierce moral passion and a great sense of historic drama. By delving into the exclusionary policies and attitudes of Atlanta’s white Protestant elite, tensions within the city’s Jewish community, related terrorist incidents and links among right-wing extremist, racist and anti-Semitic organizations, she has reclaimed a forgotten chapter of the civil rights era.


Finalist for the National Book Award
Winner of the Southern Book Circle Critics Award
Winner of the Georgia Historical Society Book Award
Winner of the Haddasah Myrtle Wreath Award
Winner of the Georgia Author Of The Year Award
Winner of the ACLU National Civil Liberties Award


“Greene is both a spectacularly evocative writer and an accomplished social historian……..this is stay-up-past-your-bedtime stuff.”
San Diego Union-Tribune

The Temple Bombing is an important book that brings to life a pivotal time and place in Southern history”.
Washington Post

“This book is as illuminating as it is shocking. I learned a great deal from Ms Greene, and so will many readers who think their lives are disconnected from history.”
New York Times Book Review

“Superbly drawn . . . Greene’s prose is graceful and intuitive. She is far more than a journalist or historian; she is a Southern storyteller in the true tradition of the artist who reveals the wisdom, humanity and frailty of ordinary people.”
The Miami Herald

“Greene writes beautifully, and she adeptly handles a massive amount of research. So vivid is her tale of Rothschild that when I got to his funeral, I wept, as though I’d lost an old friend”.
Detroit Free Press

“Greene is a talented storyteller and has provided a sobering and important reminder of one of the ugliest chapters in recent American history……
…..a notable achievement.”
The Boston Sunday Globe

“Ms Greene’s real contribution may be the rich portrait of the well heeled highly assimilated segment of Southern Jewry – a population that, having no Bellow or Roth to capture its rhythms, has often been overlooked. [She] offers a fascinating portrait of the complexities of American Jewish culture”.
–Deborah Lipstadt, Forward

“Greene’s book reminds us that, despite what’s being preached by Louis Farrakhan and others, there was a time – not so long ago – when Jews and African-Americans worked together, often at great personal cost, for equality and freedom”.
–Francine Prose, Elle

Combining the historian’s urge for accuracy with a sociologist’s sense of social nuance and a writerly passion for the beauty of language, Melissa Fay Greene revisits an ugly moment in Atlanta’s history in The Temple Bombing… The Temple Bombing is an act of witness against the chaos, at once sickening, elegant, and heartfelt.
–The National Book Foundation, 1996 Nonfiction Finalist Award