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Jewish Communities in the South Support Desegregation Activities

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More and more Jewish communities throughout the South are involving themselves in a “growing ring of desegregation activities,” it was asserted here by The Southern Israelite, a local weekly newspaper, on the basis of a study made by the paper.

The Atlanta Jewish newspaper said in an editorial that “the impression erroneously prevails that Jewish residents in the South are all cowering in fear over the problem of desegregation and adopting a hands-off attitude.”

“Thousands are indeed located in states where the threat of anti-Semitism hangs heavy over their heads and they may be in actual bodily danger which could be ignited by such efforts as the abortive visit of the demonstration-happy rabbis in Birmingham,” the editorial continued. “But thousands more, by far the majority, live in areas where goodwill and respect for law and order comprise the prevailing Southern sentiment, and their leaders are unafraid and forthright in seeking solutions.

“The most tried are Jews who live in scattered towns and cities, isolated for the most part from contemporary Jewish opinion and the reassurance of Jewish neighbors,” the paper stressed. “These frontliners cannot be overlooked or disregarded by courageous arm-chair strategists,” the editorial emphasized.

In Charleston, S. C., the newspaper reported, “Jewish residents are working with their Christian neighbors for the best possible solution” of desegregation efforts, In Savannah, Ga., “the Jewish community is participating actively in bringing a solution to the desegregation-troubled population.”

On the other hand, in Albany, Ga., an attempted sit-in in the Jewish temple there on a Friday night was frustrated when “ushers turned away two Jewish members of the student integration movement, and a third person described by members of the congregation as a Negro child.” The newspaper stated that the Albany congregation, “one of Georgia’s oldest groups, has a policy of not admitting Negroes to services.”

JEWS IN CHARLESTON AND SAVANNAH HELP TO WORK OUT SOLUTION

The Charleston report noted that “while Jewish leaders in some areas of the South are either working behind closed doors, or refraining from participation because they fear anti-Semitism, this is not the case in Charleston.” Several stores in that city, including establishments owned by Jews, have added Negro salesmen to their staffs.

Dr. William Wexler, president of the Jewish Community Council of Savannah, told The Southern Israelite that “local Jews are taking a forthright part with other residents in working out a solution” to desegration demands. Dr. Wexler noted that at least two leaders of the Jewish community in Savannah are among the city’s negotiators “trying to work out an amicable development.”

The Savannah report noted: “Jewish merchants and tradesmen have experienced loss in the unofficial boycott of the Colored protest group, although many of the merchants have participated with non-Jewish merchants in meeting the demands of the Negroes.” Only one incident in Savannah, according to Dr. Wexler, indicated an anti-Jewish attitude. That incident, he said, involved one picket sign that read: “You gave freedom to Jews, Japs and Chinese — why not to us?”

Both Savannah and Charleston Jews said that the local temples would admit Negroes if they wished to attend religious services. Dr. Wexler was quoted as saying: “It ill behooves Jewish people, who are so concerned with human dignity and civil rights, for ourselves to deny these privileges to others.”

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