Jewish Merchants Group in Mixed Area Fights Crime with Community Projects

A Jewish merchants group in a racially-mixed high-crime area of South Philadelphia is seeking to combat lawlessness with community projects in cooperation with a like-minded group of black residents in the area, and on its own. The efforts by the South Seventh Street Businessmen’s Association include reviving a moribund neighborhood recreation center and introducing innovations such as modeling courses for girls, sewing courses, hockey and baseball teams and tours by youth groups of museums and other sites in the city.

According to Irv Zeinick, a Seventh Street poultry and seafood dealer for the past 20 years, the idea is to get youths “off the street and get them involved in constructive projects.” He told the Philadelphia Jewish Times that the association works with the Greenwich Neighbors Action Committee, the black group. He said that crime in the neighborhood includes repeated burglaries, badgering of merchants and customers by beggars and molestation of storekeepers and individuals by gangs. He contended that it was “obvious” that getting a restoration or order in the area “is going to involve more than just a show of force. The police seem powerless to prevent the incidents and although enforcement plays a role in the overall program, our direction must be along other fronts.”

Not all of the Jewish merchants agree with that approach. At a meeting of the association held at the Shari-Eli Synagogue, the main emphasis was on “jaw and order.” Voices were raised against “new-fangled trends” of using “sociological tools,” the Jewish weekly reported. However, a majority is supporting the project which is getting municipal backing in the form of recreational equipment. A recent meeting of the two merchants associations was attended by Murray Friedman, executive director of the American Jewish Committee in Philadelphia, who said his organization would support the proposed programs.

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