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Rabbi Urges Jewish Self-defense but Assails Self-appointed Defense Groups

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A member of the board of governors of the New York Board of Rabbis, writing in the current issue of the board’s Bulletin, denounced self-appointed Jewish defense groups that “appear on the scene who allege to speak for the entire Jewish community while they actually only echo sentiments of a small segment of Jewry.”

Rabbi Kurt Klappholz, writing on “The Defense of Jewish Rights,” did not mention any existing defense group by name in his article, but the thrust appeared to be aimed at the Jewish Defense League headed by Rabbi Meir Kahane. Rabbi Klappholz, however, urged training, under Jewish auspices, of young Jews in self-defense methods to protect themselves against street attacks. He asserted that “since the established leadership of Jewry is slow moving and often unable to grasp the urgent need of the hour, self-styled leaders quickly move into the vacuum of leadership and gain public attention far beyond their importance.”

He described the problem as one of people in urban centers being “afraid to walk the streets by night,” and added that “Jewish economic positions in the inner city and on its fringes have become untenable. The rise of anti-Semitism among radical groups intensifies the Jewish problem in our cities.” Rabbi Klappholz asserted that “our Jewish defense organizations have as yet to devise an effective plan to deal with those aggravated conditions, and unity among Jewish groups is still a messianic yearning.”

PROPOSALS ARE NOT OFFICIAL POLICY OF BOARD OF RABBIS

Rabbi Gilbert Klapperman, NYBR president, said that Rabbi Klappholz’ comments and proposals were typical of the range of expression of views appearing in the publication and that they did not represent any official policy of the NYBR. He added that it was necessary to make a distinction between Jewish rights, involving such issues as anti-Semitism among Negro leaders, and the question of street attacks on Jews, which he said was a problem of street crime generally, rather than a matter of Jewish rights. He added that he felt that training of young Jews in self-defense was a useful idea.

Rabbi Klappholz said such training of young Jews would be “a deterrent to crime in our streets” and that “all Jewish groups must unite in getting better police protection and getting more Jewish auxiliary policemen in Jewish neighborhoods.” He also contended that rabbis in urban communities must “become directly involved in matters of community protection and the defense of Jewish rights” and “lend our skills to the stabilization of our communities in our urban centers.”

In criticizing self-styled defense groups, Rabbi Klappholz declared that “any protecting and defending of citizens’ rights must be done by our police. It would be a sad day, indeed, if self-appointed groups — Jewish or otherwise — would take over the functions of the police in our communities” because “the end result would be civil war” and “the doom of our American society.”

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