Jewish Defense League Advertisement, Tactics Denounced by New York Jewish Leaders
Menu JTA Search

Jewish Defense League Advertisement, Tactics Denounced by New York Jewish Leaders

Download PDF for this date

A representative cross-section of the New York City Jewish community, led by Arthur J. Goldberg, today resoundingly denounced the militant Jewish Defense League. The censures were voiced by religious and secular Jews at a press conference called by an ad hoc group of leaders opposed to the self-defense group which claims 6.700 members.

The meeting was called in the wake of the publication this week of a large Defense League advertisement in the New York Times calling for the defeat of Mayor John V. Lindsay in the November mayoralty election. The leaders were also disturbed by JDL members’ disruption of a campaign appearance by Mayor Lindsay in Temple Beth Shalom in Brooklyn on Tuesday.

Mr. Goldberg told the conference that he deplored injection of racist and ethnic issues into the campaign, a position that other speakers echoed. The former Supreme Court Associate Justice, United Nations Ambassador and American Jewish Committee president compared an appeal to racial antagonism on the basis of support or opposition to a candidate to “crying fire in a crowded theater.”

He declared that he opposed private organizations performing governmental functions to physically protect private citizens. Government is fully equipped and prepared to protect religious institutions and the lives of American citizens, he said, adding that he felt there was no need for an organization like the JDL in the city’s communal life or that of the nation. He expressed the belief that none of the mayoralty candidates — Mr. Lindsay, Mario Procaccino, or State Sen. John V. Marchi — are racists.

Stanley Lowell, a vice chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, presented a position paper of his organization which rejected the “paramilitary operations” of the JDL as “destructive of public order and contributory to divisiveness and terror.”

The NJCRAC, composed of nine national and 82 local Jewish community relations agencies, asserted that “Jewish security — indeed, the security of any ethnic or racial group — does not lie in taking the law into one’s own hands. That kind of simplistic approach to the complicated problems of our time can only produce warring groups, not solutions.”


The anti-Lindsay advertisement, which drew considerable consternation, said “the Jews of New York City cannot afford four more years of John Lindsay.” It blamed him for “a violent outpouring of anti-Jewish hate during the … school strike.” accused him of maintaining anti-Semites and racists on the public payroll, and assailed him for silence on a “reign of terror against Jewish merchants in so-called ghetto areas.”

The advertisement, signed by JDL national chairman, Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was present at the press conference, and JDL general counsel Bertram Zweibon, also blamed Mayor Lindsay for what it said were “intolerable levels” of crime in Jewish neighborhoods involving terrorism and synagogue vandalism. It asserted that the “philosophy of Lindsayism” was responsible for a de facto school quota system that discriminated against Jews.

At the meeting, run by Howard Squadron, co-chairman of the American Jewish Congress governing council, a statement denouncing the advertisement as conducive to “a campaign of hatred and vilification” against the mayor was read. Signed by 300 Jewish leaders and prominent figures, it asked “our co-religionists to ignore all such offensive appeals, to vote as they see fit for the candidate of their choice.”

A statement by Dr. Bernard Mandelbaum, president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, was read by Rabbi Benjamin Kreitman, a Conservative leader. The Seminary head denounced the JDL for “wicked, irresponsible talk.” He said its behavior was contrary to Jewish tradition. that it was not defensive but “offensive” and was “not in league” with responsible Jewry.

Rabbi Edward Klein (Reform) of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue taxed the JDL as “self-appointed, self-anointed,” and said it spoke for itself only. He termed the advertisement an insult to Jews and said that Jews as voters were “not in anybody’s vest pocket” — meaning they do not vote as a bloc.

Rabbi Joseph Lookstein, chancellor of Bar-Ilan University in Israel and rabbi of Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue in New York, said Jews do not believe in vigilantism but rather in vigilance as a matter of protecting the community. Rabbi Leon Fink, whose synagogue was the scene of JDL screaming and booing of Mr. Lindsay this week, said that the incident marked the first time in his 10 years in its pulpit that a person’s “freedom of communication” from that pulpit was denied.

One voice was raised in a mild defense of the JDL by Rabbi Louis Newman of Manhattan’s Temple Rodeph Sholom who said from the floor — he was not on the panel — that however mistaken the defense outfit was in its tactics, it “has sought to create a different image of Jews in the United States — we are not an acquiescent or supine people.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund