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Karim’s BHM: Only Connect

As the new head of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, Reverend Melissa Patrick works on connecting humanity and bridging gaps.

I met recently with the newly appointed Executive Director of Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, Reverend  Melissa Patrick. Her words were profound and powerful. She sees her new responsibilities fitting her history and her milieu.

“I understand faith as personal holiness which is how I live out my faith, and social holiness which is how my faith interacts with the world. What is at the heart of my mission is love and justice, and treating my neighbor like I want to be treated,” Rev. Patrick said, then added, “As humans, we are all connected.”

After working as a Methodist clergy for many years, Rev. Patrick’s open beliefs and tolerant views did not fit well with church politics.

“I’m a very progressive faith leader, and the Methodist denomination made it hard to stay the course. I support the LGBTQ community, and I am a woman of faith and love and justice. Jesus said love your neighbor, regardless of their story,” Patrick said.

That was when friends at Birmingham Holocaust Education Center asked Rev. Patrick to take the helm.

“I have a heart for bridging gaps. I love all: Christian, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, whatever; as well as all races and genders. I hope all humans live in harmony and love each other. Working to increase our hope and dismantle racism are the two big issues on my paradigm,” Rev. Patrick said.

Rev. Patrick hopes her new appointment at the BHEC will enable her to be effective in fighting racism.

“Racism is in the air we breathe. We, white people, should listen more,” Rev. Patrick said. “We need to live in a diverse and loving and just world, not in silos apart from each other. We must stare in the face of racism and shout: NEVER AGAIN.”

Rev. Patrick sees her mission at the BHEC as a culmination of everything she is passionate about.

“The heart of our mission at the BHEC is to educate people about the Holocaust so that new generations apply its lessons and construct a more just, humane, compassionate, and tolerant future. This paramount mission motivates me to be a better person. It’s very humbling. The other night, I was here by myself walking through the exhibit and stories. Let me tell you, the power of being present with these survivors as they tell their riveting stories cannot be measured.” Rev. Patrick said.

On a recent day, a group of high school students from Sylacauga High School visited the BHEC. Rev. Patrick noticed something in their eyes.

“I saw their faces light up when they met Holocaust survivor Dr. Robert May. You could tell the impact on their young minds and hearts,” Rev. Patrick said. “This place compels us to make a difference. We need to ensure there is no more ‘othering’. Hope gives you the strength to change things, and the BHEC propels us to deepen our relationships across all boundaries. As I said, humans are all connected.”

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