Gardner, Louisiana is a small town in Rapides Parish, about 15 miles to the southwest of Alexandria. Like many other rural areas across the South, it is very conservative, very religious, and apparently extremely ignorant.
How bad could it be? Well, according to a local news report, residents of Gardner were freaked out about signs that suddenly appeared in the area written in a language they didn’t understand. So instead of thinking that maybe they should take pictures of the signs, and then go home to figure out what language it was and what they meant, a few citizens of Rapides Parish called the local sheriff’s department to report what they thought were signs written in Arabic supporting ISIS.
The Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office says signs that have popped up in Gardner depicting a message written in another language are written in Hebrew.
RPSO and KALB were contacted by several residents who were concerned about the signs and that they might have been terror message written in Arabic.
The sheriff’s office says not to worry, they are actually “welcome home” signs written in Hebrew and not in anyway affiliated with ISIS. (Source)
As a person of Jewish descent, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. There are some very nice people who live here in Louisiana who would give the shirt off their backs to a stranger in need, and there are also a decent number of folks who are surprisingly progressive for a state that still allows creationism to be taught in schools.
Louisiana also has a strong Jewish history dating back to when it was still a territory held by both the Spanish and British, and it avoided much of the anti-Jewish sentiment that was present in the United States up until after World War II.
The free-wheeling atmosphere of the state, dominated by New Orleans, encouraged the full participation and integration of Jews; there was then little anti-Jewish prejudice, which seems to have gained momentum only in the late 19th century. Among Louisiana’s notable assimilated Jews were U.S. Senator Judah P. Benjamin(1853–61); Henry M. Hyams, Benjamin’s cousin, lieutenant governor of Louisiana in 1859; and Dr. Edwin Warren Moise, speaker of the Louisiana legislature at the same time and later state attorney general. It was apparently no accident that each of these men intermarried. In 1872, the first Rex, King of Carnival, was Louis J. Salomon, a great-grandson of HaymSalomon, the well-known Revolutionary War patriot. (Source)
Yet, for people who likely embrace the Confederate flag as “heritage not hate” and pride themselves on the history of the state, you would think they could at least recognize Hebrew writing – but apparently not. Jewish people even fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War, including my distant relative Colonel Abraham Meyers who was the Quartermaster General of the Confederate States Army.
Hatred, bigotry and ignorance are alive and well in Louisiana. The fact that people can’t tell the difference between Hebrew and Arabic writing is only further evidence of why the state ranks 44th in the nation in overall education performance.
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