Rabbi Reports on Jewish Aid in Negro Struggle for Equal Rights
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Rabbi Reports on Jewish Aid in Negro Struggle for Equal Rights

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The American Jewish community, which has been involved in the quest for civil rights for a long time, has now developed “a new sense of urgency regarding inequality to the Negro,” a representative of the Reform rabbinate told a Catholic conference here. This view was expressed by Rabbi Balfour Brickner, director of the Commission on Interfaith Activities of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, in an address before the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice.

Judaism, said Rabbi Brickner, is committed to the Negro cause both theologically and morally, advocating human equality “because it is right.” At the same time, he noted, “the security of the Jewish community is inextricably bound to the security of all groups, since practices of discrimination and segregation against ethers are a direct threat to the status of the Jewish community.”

Tri-faith clerical participation in civil rights demonstrations, he said, has shown that “Jews are neither hostile to rabbinic involvement nor afraid of community consequences.” He reported a number of actions being carried out currently by Jewish groups on the national as well as the local levels.

He called attention to the formation of a rabbinic task-force of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis by the Synagogue Council of America, for participation in peaceful racial demonstrations. Jewish lay leaders, he said, are increasingly joining picket lines and sit-ins, and broad programs of grass-roots community action are undertaken by Jewish community councils.


Rabbi Brickner also reported that Jewish congregations are conducting drives for funds to assist the Negro cause in various cities; the Philadelphia Jewish community, as an example, has adopted a program grant of $25,000 to cover “a variety of actions”; a congregation in another city raised $1,300 at a Friday evening Sabbath Service for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and over $5,000 was raised by a congregational Social Action Committee in Toronto, which also resulted in the establishment of that city’s first Human Relations Commission.

The rabbi felt that the “increase” of Jewish activity in behalf of the Negroes’ cause is due to the fact that “American Christendom has increased the degree of its own involvement.”

“Jewish efforts have been given real impetus by the new tri-faith activity,” he said. “While organizations, nationally, have been willing to be in the vanguard of the civil rights program, locally, Jews have heretofore felt that theirs was not the responsibility to be the first in a community to take the initiative. This attitude is still prevalent. The Jewish community will move only as fast and as far as their Christian neighbors. Therefore, I cannot too strongly emphasize the advantage of inter-religious action.”

He admitted that there still exists a gap between the pronouncements and recommendations of national agencies and what “the individual members of a specific Jewish community are willing to accept and initiate.” He stressed, however, that, in his opinion, this picture would be the same within the ranks of Protestantism and Catholicism as well.

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