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American Attitudes Towards Jews Found Changed; Prejudice Declined

American attitudes toward Jews have changed drastically in the last quarter-century, to the point where Jews are increasingly seen as individuals and not as members of a “racial” group, it was reported here today at the opening of the national executive board meeting of the American Jewish Committee.

Dr. John Slawson, executive vice-president of the organization, made public at the meeting the findings of a study conducted by leading social scientists which established that most Americans now view Jews as members of a religious group rather than a race or nationality, and they recognize Judaism as one of the three major faiths in this country.

The study, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, also established that overt anti-Semitism has declined sharply during the past 25 years, and hostile stereotypes about Jews have shown a marked decline. However, latent and ingrained prejudice is still in evidence and could be activated by upheavals and crises in the American society. These crises need not be limited to American desperation; they can occur in periods of plenty.

Charles Herbert Stember, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, conducted the study with the cooperation of the Rutgers Research Council. Leading American social scientists from Harvard, Columbia, Brandeis, Cornell, University of Chicago, New York University, Vanderbilt University and University of Michigan have contributed evaluative papers on the survey.

Dr. Stember has found that the overall perception of the Jew is far different in the 1960’s than it was in the mid-Thirties and early Forties. Currently, some past stereotypes have “very nearly disappeared, such as the notion that Jews as a group supposedly are clannish, unscrupulous or powerful in business and finance.” Even where negative images do exist about Jews, they have “become less prevalent and less extreme,” according to Prof. Stember. On the question of association with Jews, the study made the following findings on American attitudes:

1. The restrictive quotas on admission of Jews to colleges widely approved by adults in the 1940’s has almost completely fallen out of favor in the 1960’s.

2. Respondents to the polls expressed their willingness to have their children associate with Jewish children.

3. From the late 1940’s on, nearly the entire public has declared it is willing to work in association with Jews.

4. By the early 1960’s, “an overwhelming majority of Americans appeared ready to accept individual Jews as next-door neighbors.”

5. Sentiment against intermarriage “waned” between 1950 and 1962; “acceptance of Jews as marriage partners increased at about the same rate as did acceptance of Jewish employees, fellow students and neighbors.”

Professor Stember has found that hostile attitudes toward Jews are getting “less widespread support in the 1960’s than at any other time since the systematic study of public attitudes began.” However, he emphasizes that “anti-Jewish prejudice obviously is not yet a thing of the past, any more than anti-Jewish discrimination is.”

CULTURAL AID TO JEWISH COMMUNITIES IN SOUTH AMERICA PLANNED

A religious and cultural peace corps to help the 600,000 Jews of South America to retain their communal and personal identity as Jews is being organized by the American Jewish Committee, the executive board also was told today. Harris Berlack, chairman of the organization’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said the first step would be to set up a research unit to study the extent and resources of anti-democratic and anti-Semitic organizations in Argentina.

The committee also will work with existing Jewish organizations to develop libraries and other cultural material resources for South American Jews. The project will work with American Jewish educational, religious and social welfare organizations to help South American Jewish communities to meet a “critical shortage of qualified rabbis, teachers, social workers, youth leaders and other professional personnel.”

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