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Board of Virginia Synagogue Ignores Threat of Segregationists

The executive board of Temple Beth El today cancelled plans for a meeting to discuss an anti-segregation Yom Kippur sermon by Rabbi Emmet A. Frank as important non-Jewish elements rallied to defend the Rabbi. Virginia’s most powerful segregationist organization had voiced a virtual ultimatum to Northern Virginia Jewry to “move quickly to refute and condemn Rabbi Frank. “

Mayor Leroy Bendheim of the city of Alexandria is president of Temple Beth El’s board of trustees. The Mayor had previously indicated that a special meeting was being called to discuss the sermon. As the situation developed, however, the board cancelled plans for such a meeting and said “no meeting for the purpose of discussing the Rabbi’s sermon is contemplated. “

Mayor Benheim said today: “The executive board of the Temple is an administrative body. Any religious or spiritual matters are solely the province of the Rabbi. ” Rabbi Frank said he was pleased by the board’s decision. He served notice “I intend to continue my sermons on this issue of equality for all people. “

Informed sources reported that while displeasure still exists among elements on the Temple’s board, a firm determination developed to avoid any action against the Rabbi that might give an impression of capitulation to the segregationist attack on the Jewish community. The segregationists turned on the Rabbi after he told his congregation that Sen. Byrd, Gov. Almond of Virginia, and Gov. Faubus of Arkansas have wrought more disunity to the nation in the last few years than Communists have done in years of organized effort.

The “Defenders of State Sovereignty” demanded that Jews of Northern Virginia repudiate the Rabbi. They said that if he had purposely contrived to destroy relations between Christians and Jews “he could not have been more effective. ” It was then that the board of Temple Beth El scheduled the meeting, plans for which have now been abandoned.

Today the Washington Post devoted a special editorial to support the Rabbi whom it described as a “courageous clergyman. ” The Post said that “as part of the community conscience members of the clergy ought to feel free to discuss segregation and other public issues. ..many Virginia ministers have defied ostracism to do what they felt was their duty. Most members of Rabbi Frank’s congregation must find satisfaction, whether or not they agree with him, in this indication that their rabbi is as courageous as he is conscious of his obligations as a good citizen.”

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