Jewish Emigres from Soviet Latvia Complain Son is Harassed by Black Schoolmates

Two Jewish emigres from Soviet Latvia have written to Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, Mayor John V. Lindsay, the Board of Education and the New York Times to protest anti-Semitic “harassment” of their younger son by his sixth-grade black schoolmates. “For participating actively in class,” Mitchell and Mia Vickers wrote, “he has been called ‘Jewish faggot’ and shot at with paper clips from catapults by his black classmates, because ‘he knows everything.’” The racially “balanced” classes at Public School 84 in upper Manhattan, they continued, “are disrupted by the loudest, if not numerous, part of the ‘under privileged.’ who, not being able to read, not only bear no burden of knowledge, but clearly have no desire to acquire any.” Those children, they said, “scatter the free lunches, preferring to extort food more to their taste–and money too — from their white schoolmates, who are a minority and defenseless.” The Vickers boy has “refused to go (to class) any longer.” His parents declared: “We are tired of being silent. It was not our intention to escape Russian chauvinism only to be sacrificed to black racism. Our younger son has been harassed and called ‘dirty Jew.’ Two of his teeth were broken. He still has seven years of study in primary and secondary school. We do not want him crippled physically or mentally during those years and we want him to gain knowledge at the same time.” The couple concluded their letter by asserting that “It is time to restore order in the classrooms and to give every child the right and the chance to study according to his ability.”

In a weekend telephone interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Mr. Vickers said that his younger son, who has been attending classes only a day or two a week, was assailed again by black classmates last Friday, the day before his parents’ letter appeared in the Times. Mr. Vickers emphasized that he was not accusing all blacks of anti-Semitism, only those in his son’s classes. He said he recognized that blacks “have the right to exist just as we have the right to exist,” but that because of black youngsters’ hostility toward his son, “There is no order in the class, there is no learning.” Mr. Vickers, a commercial artist whose older son is a star student and athlete at the Cooper Union, said he and his family left Riga and the Soviet Union on Aug. 6, 1965, after having had their emigration requests rejected for nine years. The authorities, he said, scoffed at their request to join relatives in Israel, telling them: “There is no reason to let you out. You are quite independent of them.” On the suggestion of a Jew who had managed to gain emigration permission, the Vickerses wrote to the Soviet and Latvian authorities every week for eight months. The authorities finally decided, he said, that they were too troublesome to put up with, and let them leave. The family went to Israel and thence to the United States. They left the USSR before Jews there started petitioning and publicly agitating for emigration rights.

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