Workmen’s Circle Assails Jewish Defense League As ‘self-appointed Vigilante Group’

The Workmen’s Circle, Jewish labor fraternal order, today condemned the Jewish Defense League (JDL) as “a self-appointed vigilante group” and called upon the American Jewish community to join in a unified condemnation. A statement issued by Israel Breslow, president, and Benjamin A. Gebiner, executive secretary, on behalf of the organization, said the JDL, which claims to act in defense of Jews physically threatened in the streets of New York, “can only aggravate group tensions in our community rather than heal the wounds of racial and religious confrontation.”

In condemning the “separate police force,” as well as other extremist groups, the organization said, “We do not believe that carrying weapons, drilling with grey berets and mouthing slogans are effective means of combatting bigotry and prejudice. As responsible Jews we vigorously oppose any self-appointed vigilante group seeking to establish a para-military organization within the Jewish community.” The organization expressed hope “that the entire American Jewish community will join in a unified condemnation of the Jewish Defense League.”

The League, headed by Rabbi Meir Kahane, an Orthodox rabbi and editor of the Jewish Press, a New York weekly, recently took a three-column advertisement in the New York Times to mark its first anniversary. It featured a picture showing six “nice Jewish boys.” four of them armed with clubs, standing in front of Temple Emanu-El in New York and awaiting a confrontation with black militants who reportedly were to appear to demand “reparations.” The Negroes did not appear. The League is dedicated to “fighting back when Jewish lives and property are in danger” and has been called a “goon squad” and “vigilantes” by its several critics.

The advertisement carried the caption; “Is this any way for nice Jewish boys to behave?” It then answered the question saying “maybe” and adding that “maybe there are times when there is no other way to get across to the extremists that the Jews is not quite the ‘patsy’ some think he is.” The following day, the Times published an editorial saying the answer to the question was “an emphatic ‘No.’–not Jewish boys, nor Christian boys, nor White boys, nor Black boys, nor other kinds of boys.”

The League has been recruiting youth for a Catskill Mountains summer camp where it will instruct them in “self-defense” and Jewish history A League spokesman has denied that it is a “vigilante” group. He told a reporter that “when someone comes to kill you, you have the right to defend yourself.”

NEXT STORY