Fitness Only Criterion for Job, Says Newman, Hitting Race Tie
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Fitness Only Criterion for Job, Says Newman, Hitting Race Tie

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Discrimination against applicants for jobs on account of their racial and religious ties was attacked in a sermon yesterday morning by Rabbi Louis I. Newman at Temple Rodeph Sholom, 7 West Eighty-third street.

Any criterion for the selection of employees other than fitness for the job applied for was denounced by Rabbi Newman as un-American. Jewish employers who for various reasons limit Jewish members of their establishments to a minimum, as well as Gentile employers who admit no Jews at all, were subjected to Rabbi Newman’s fire.

“American employers,” he declared, “must not establish racial tests in giving work to applicants, and Jews should not be forced to conceal, if they can, their Jewish origin. Excellence alone should be the criterion for the selection of employees, and any other considerations should have no place in American life.”

The objections advanced by employers who bar Jews were scored by the rabbi as of little moment.


“The fact that Jewish employees may wish to be excused on the High Holy Days should not militate against their receiving employment,” he said. “The religious holy days of other denominations are recognized by schools and commercial groups, and there is no reason why, particularly in large centers of Jewish population, the same consideration should not be tendered the historic faith of Israel. Any abuses of this privilege can be easily corrected by good will on both sides.”

Another objection frequently offered by employers who refuse to take Jews into their employ was cited by Rabbi Newman as involving “manners.” This objection he condemned as being merely a “mask for the desire of many Gentile employers to keep out of their concerns Jewish workers of ambition and initiative.”

On the subject of Jewish employers, Rabbi Newman spoke as follows:

“Those Jewish employers who engage a minimum of Jewish employees are likewise complicating the problem of work for members of their own racial and religious community. If Jewish young people cannot expect sympathy and cooperation from their own brethren, from whom can salvation come? The fear that Jewish employees rapidly rise from the worker to the employer class is ungrounded, for Jews make loyal and efficient workers, to the betterment and growth of the institutions with which they are affiliated. The Jewish labor unions have the highest standards, and their influence upon the liberal aspects of the labor codes has been incalculable. Jews may not be content with inadequate wages and they may protest if unjustly treated, but the net effect for the entire community is beneficial.


Rabbi Newman’s sermon also attacked the practice of summer resorts and hotels in excluding Jews.

“It is only natural,” he said, “that in the environs of New York City, in New England and elsewhere the number of Jewish summer residents should be large and the effort to keep out the Jewish newcomers can injure, not so much the Jews, as the Gentiles who discriminate against them.”

In this connection, Rabbi Newman pointed out that the failure of many resort and hotel enterprises in recent years could be directly traced to their policies of racial discrimination.

“Economic and social life in the United States,” he concluded, “must have a free and natural flow of forces. Snobbery and racial bigotry have no place in democratic, cosmopolitan America. The quota laws in our university, fraternity, resort and business life are the worst form of applied intolerance and they should be rooted out of the American scene.”


Rabbi Jacob Bosniak, Ocean Parkway Jewish Center, 450 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn: Colonel Dreyfus symbolizes the history of the Jews through the events of his own life. During the period of his sufferings, he exhibited the qualities which enabled the Jews to survive. To the present day Dreyfus’ victory over all his enemies should be a source of hope for the Jew in his present struggle against Hitler and his cohorts.


Dr. Mordecai N. Kaplan, Society for the Advancement of Judaism, 15 West Ninety-first street: Our civilization has reached a point where it is increasingly difficult for us to make the most of our lives. The situation calls for a thorough rethinking of our entire philosophy. Our practical men have, of course, always deprecated philosophies, but events have proved them to be tragically wrong. The present crisis has gone a long way in making “hardheaded” synonomous with “softbrained.”

The tremendous sweep and power of communism and fascism in the modern world are due to their having philosophies, wrong as these may be. It is by virtue of these philosophies that they are threatening to supplant and supersede the authoritative historical religions. One is dedicated to the creation of class-consciousness, the other to the creation of nation-consciousness. The opportunity is thus presented to vital religion to develop a humanity consciousness based on the recognition of the equal right of all human beings to the maximum realization of their powers for good and of the right of individuals and groups to maintain their respective differences.

Such a new philosophy should be founded on a thorough understanding of human nature. Such a new philosophy would be ethical in the sense that it would refrain from appealing to the motives of hatred, pugnacity and self-assertion made glamorous by mob psychology and seek to elicit the highest aims and strivings of human nature under the dominance of reason.


Rabbi Joseph Zeitlin, Temple Ansche Chesed, West End avenue at 100th street: In this modern age, we constantly refer to the value of liberalness of thought but unfortunately very few of us really appreciate the meaning of the term. Tolerance demands that we not only respect the views of those who agree with us but it is also incumbent upon us to honor the opinion of those who may be diametrically opposed to our point of view. Education can serve humanity to great advantage if it will but practice and teach the meaning of tolerance.

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