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Roadblocks to Social Club Membership Hinder Jews’ Executive Climb, AJ Committee Finds

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Because Jews are often unable to acquire the kind of social club membership considered a virtual necessity in the world of big business, they are seriously hampered in their effort to climb the executive ladder, the American Jewish Committee reported today at its 63rd annual meeting here.

The finding was based on a seven-year study by Dr. Reed M. Powell, dean of the Ohio State University business school, who made the study in Los Angeles and San Francisco when he was on the University of California at Los Angeles faculty. In making public Dr. Powell’s findings, AJ Committee officials said that the fight against such exclusion is important not only to Jews but also to members of other minority groups, who, as they move increasingly toward professional levels already attained by Jews, are bound to encounter the same barriers at the executive level.

Dr. Powell found that among religions, as distinct from racial ties, Judaism "stands alone as a major negative factor in the lives of American business executives," an "almost insurmountable barrier" to significant promotion because the dominant group members "naturally turn to the ranks of those they know."

Dr. Powell interviewed 825 upper and middle-level West Coast corporate executives, as well as community and business leaders belonging to major social clubs in the two cities. He reported that three out of four persons interviewed stressed the desirability of membership in social clubs and the disqualification for promotion of those who did not belong. He cited as a complicating factor the fact that American Jews seek to achieve "total acceptance into the dominant American society without the loss of their own personal identity or their way of life" as Jews. Almost half of the interviewed executives felt that Jews were subject to particular barriers in social ties which negatively affected their promotability. The comparable figure for Catholics was given at 14 percent. Protestant religious affiliation was considered a "virtually non-existent hindrance factor."

The study was one of several commissioned by the organization, all of them revealing that a small number of Jews, in proportion to the number of Jewish college graduates, held executive posts in major corporations. The organization has been conducting a campaign of meetings with industry leaders with " positive results" in many large corporations, it said. Local chapters have fought anti-minority barriers in the clubs with some success but, officials said, the most prestigious clubs remained closed to Jews.

Bertram H. Gold, executive vice-president, warned delegates against indiscriminate demands for ethnic quotas for college admission and other programs. He said "it is right to create programs that give preferential treatment to deprived and handicapped groups" but, he added, this does not justify attempts to impose indiscriminately quotas based solely on racial or ethnic identification. He also cautioned against feelings of collective guilt about the plight of black people on the part of the white community and American Jews. Such attitudes, he said, could result in an inverted racism which could contribute to irrationality among both whites and blacks.

The AJ Committee presented its first annual Joseph Ross Award to its Pittsburgh chapter for the development of an innovative approach to meeting the needs of low income families for housing. The program involves rehabilitation of substandard dwelling units by owners or neighborhood corporations, leasing of rehabilitated dwellings by the local housing authority at market rent levels and sub-leasing them to poor families at rents they can afford. The difference between the market price and the rents charged is subsidized by Federal funds under the National Housing Act. The annual Institute of Human Relations mass media award was presented to Edward W. Barrett, former dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and now director of the Communication Institute of the Academy for Educational Development.

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