Menu JTA Search

Move to Combat Farm Belt Anti-semitism

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Jewish officials from several Midwestern states will attempt to expand contacts with mainstream Christian clergymen and rural area farm organizations in an effort to combat a recent rise in the activities of racist and anti-Semitic groups in the nation’s farm belt. Jewish leaders from the region, concerned by the growing rise in the activities of these groups, including the Christian Identity movement, also held what was described as a confidential meeting to “assess extremism and anti-Semitism in farm and rural areas in the Middle West,” according to David Goldstein, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Bureau of Greater Kansas City.

Goldstein told the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, in an article published October 18, that he hoped mainstream Christian clergymen would “be able to create conditions in their communilies that will make anti-Semitism unpopular.” He said that the Christian Identity movement “is also a threat to mainstream Christian groups.”

According to Goldstein, “What they (Christian Identity members) have is an ideology of anti-Semitism and a religion based on anti-Semitism. They combine and become a powerful message.” He told Chronicle staff writer Michael Deverey that a major problem facing Jewish leaders is that Jews are generally an urban based group and many rural residents have never even met a Jew.

For example, wrote Deverey, out of some 18,000 residents of Dodge City, Kansas, there are only a few Jewish individuals and no Jewish families. Dodge City, it was recalled, is the home of radio station KTTL-FM, which was the center of a prolonged controversy following the broadcast of racist and anti-Semitic programs which urged listeners to kill Jews and other minorities.

THE COMMON IDEOLOGICAL TIE

A recently released report prepared by Leonard Zeskind, research director of the Center for Democratic Renewal, outlines the far-right fringe groups, Zeskind found that the Identity movement serves as the common ideological tie between the various hate groups.

“Identity believes that the Jews were literally Children of Satan, the people of color were ‘pre-Adamic,’ and that white Christian Aryans were the ‘lost sheep of the House of Israel’ and that America was the Biblical Promised Land. Identity members began to collect weapons and ammunition in expectation that the Biblical ‘End Times’ are near,” Zeskind wrote in the 10-page “Background Report on Racist and Anti-Semitic Organizational Intervention in the Farm Protest Movement.”

Zeskind concludes that “in a number of geographical areas they have developed a real ‘mass’ following. Two or three dozen members in a rural county amount to a significant force.”

The private meeting of the 27 Jewish Jewish leaders included representatives of Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma and New York. They included representatives of the Jewish Community Relations bureaus, representatives of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, American Jewish Congress, and the American Jewish Committee, and members of various Midwestern Jewish Federations.

NEXT STORY