Jewish Storekeepers in Philadelphia Lose Millions in Rioting
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Jewish Storekeepers in Philadelphia Lose Millions in Rioting

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Jewish storekeepers and owners of other businesses suffered damages estimated at several millions of dollars in rioting and looting by Negroes inhabiting a 125-block area that shook that North Philadelphia section for the last two nights. At least 80 per cent of the businesses wrecked and robbed were owned by Jews.

Although officials of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia made strenuous efforts today to counter such feelings, there were widespread criticisms among Jewish businessmen in this city who contended that many of the attacks bore a decidedly anti-Semitic character. The critics pointed out that stores carrying signs “This is a Negro store” were not harmed. One large Jewish-owned department store in the area had displayed a sign reading: “We employ 100 Negroes; don’t let them lose their jobs.” The store was thoroughly wrecked, and much of its stock was robbed.

Jewish leaders, as well as city authorities, including police, pointed out that, though many of the businesses victimized had been owned by Jews, there was no anti-Semitism as such involved, the attacks being directed simply against white owners of enterprises in the midst of the Negro community of slum dwellers. A statement issued by Rabbi Theodore H. Gordon and Mrs. Fanny C. Goldstein, vice-president of the Jewish Community Relations Council, and Jules Cohen, CRC executive director, declared:


“The Jewish Community Relations Council is particularly concerned over the plight of storekeepers whose places of business were wrecked and looted. Many of them are Jewish, This gives rise to charges of anti-Semitism which, even though they maybe unwarranted, nevertheless do serious damage to good intergroup relations which are essential to the welfare of this city.”

Stating that the rioting had been the work of “hoodlums,” the CRC officers called on the police to avail themselves of State and Federal aid to put down the rioting and maintain order. Pointing out that the rioting here, like the recent disturbances in other northern cities, had been condemned by Negro religious and civic leaders, the CRC officials maintained:

“The disturbances will prove to be a serious setback to the civil rights movement. Hoodlums must not be permitted to nullify many years of dedicated work by city officials and agencies; and by private organizations, both Negro and white, to achieve full equality for all Americans. We have every confidence that the police department will continue to make every effort to control the situation. But police should not hesitate to avail themselves of State and Federal assistance if such is deemed necessary. Above all, law and order must be maintained.”

The rioting in this city started Friday night, continued until dawn on Saturday, and was resumed last night when those businesses that had escaped terrorism the first night received the brunt of the second round of store-smashing and thorough looting.

Jewish owners of the businesses, the majority of them living in remote sections of the city or in the suburbs, had rushed to the area and tried to erect various types of wooden or metal guards in front of their stores. But the boarding did no good. All business properties owned or conducted by non-Negroes were thoroughly destroyed, despite efforts by the police.

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