NEW YORK (Jun. 20)
Jews from all over the city met today to form a Council of Oppressed Jewish Neighborhoods which will try to use “Jewish power”, especially voting power, to deal with problems such as poverty and reverse discrimination currently confronting Jews in this city, Rabbi Meir Kahane, head of the Jewish Defense League, told more than 70 people gathered at Congregation. Adath Jeshrun in the Bronx that a movement of “grass-roots Jews” was needed to solve these and other problems which, he said, are neglected by governmental and established Jewish groups. JDL organized today’s conference, but Kahane told reporters before the meeting that “we’ll step out” once the Council is formed because it must represent the “general Jewish” population of the City. Addressing the conference, Rabbi Kahane said that Jews are told to “give a damn” about other minority groups, yet although Jews comprise the third largest poverty group in the city after Blacks and Puerto Ricans, “no one gives a damn about the Jewish poor.” Echoing figures revealed recently before the Chicago chapter of the American Jewish Committee (and reported in the June 11 edition of the JTA Daily News Bulletin), Rabbi Kahane said there are close to 200,000 Jews in New York living at or below the poverty level of $3,000 annual income.
But, he said, Jews get nowhere near their share of poverty funds from the City’s Council Against Poverty. He noted large pockets of Jewish poor live in 12 of the city’s 26 designated poverty areas. But he claimed, Jews are represented on the official anti-poverty councils of only two neighborhoods. Rabbi Kahane charged that poor Jews are ineligible for loans from the Small Business Administration. Because of a scarcity of public money, he said, only Blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Indians can get loans to start small businesses. “The WASP Establishment is trying to atone for their sins to Blacks on our backs,” he said. Jews shouldn’t get more than they deserve, Rabbi Kahane said, but not less either. He declared that Jews have been short-changed because they haven’t “pushed” for their needs. The government and politicians are not “afraid of the Jew” according to him. Thus, he stated, Jews must organize politically on a community level. He said that beginning next week, a house to house canvassing will begin in 10 oppressed Jewish neighborhoods, including the South Bronx, Washington Heights, Southeast Queens, and Williamsburg, to register Jews in local Jewish groups. Rabbi Kahane said that nearly 500,000 Jews live in those areas.
The local organizations, which will have store front offices, will then advise its members which local politicians are best serving Jewish interests and which ones to vote out of office. Eventually, Rabbi Kahane said, groups will be set up in Jewish communities all over the metropolitan area. Because “we vote,” he stated, the Jewish community can build a “power base” unlike that of any other ethnic or racial group. The new Council will be, Rabbi Kahane declared, the “Jewish address for Jewish problems” including the Jewish aged, deteriorating neighborhoods due to blockbusting, and the need for funds for Jewish education. He said no public money will be sought or accepted by the Council itself, but that “non-negotiable demands” would be made upon governmental agencies to financially support projects set up by the Council. He said the group’s initial targets would be the City’s Council Against Poverty and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and that current SBA policies will be protested with sit-in demonstrations.