If John W. Davis, Democratic nominee for President, fails to announce himself against the Ku Klux Klan, I shall feel impelled to break away from my life-long allegiance to my part, for I should then regard him as unworthy to be a leader of a great party, declared Samuel Untermyer in an exclusive statement issued today to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in connection with the symposium of opinion gathered by the Agency concerning the attitude of American Jewry towards the K.K.K.
“The symposium of opinion you have gathered,” stated Mr. Samuel Untermyer, “on the important question of the policy to be followed by the Jews in combatting the activities of the despicable, lawless, un-American Ku Klux organization is most interesting and instructive. It is, of course, gratifying to me to find and well-nigh unanimous support in the position I have consistently taken as to the way in which we should deal with this excrescence upon the body politic of American life, as I felf sure there would be-after mature consideration.
“The question is not one of feeling, about which there can be no difference of opinion among the decent citizenship of this country, but purely one of policy for the Jews. It is easier to plunge unthinkingly into a fight than to restrain oneself, especially where the provocation is so overwhelming and well-nigh irresistible, but it is not always the part of wisdom.
“This is not our fight. It is the fight of the Protestant churches, and of the tens of millions of patriotic, law-abiding clergymen and citizens of the Protestant faith, whose love for their country and its cherished institutions will not permit them to sit idly by whilst those institutions are being undermined and flouted.
“If you will examine the record of my public utterances-wherever and whenever the opportunity has presented itself-you will find that few men have been more outspoken in their denunciation of the Klan. But I have always launched the attack from the point of view of an American citizen rather than from that of the Jew- that being not only the most patriotic, just and legitimate, but the most expedient and effective.
“I regret, for the same of the Jewish cause, to which I have throughout my life devoted my best energies, that my position on this crucial question has been misunderstood and misrepresented. And this notwithstanding my frequent public expressions of contempt for and denunciation of the miscreants who are seeking to poison the wells of American life and to spread bigotry and hatred.
“where only the gospel of love, unity, tolerance and understanding should be preached.
“When Dr. Wise, whom I esteem highly as a public-spirited citizen, an outstanding teacher in our faith and a priceless asset to the Jewish people, gave expression to his point of view of my attitude, I conferred before penning my reply with my friend and partner, Mr. Louis Marshall, found him in full agreement with me and upon the wisdom of the policy to be adopted as outlined in my letter to the American Jewish Congress.
“The pretext offered for these misrepresentations concerning my attitude upon the Klan was my support of the pre-Convention nomination campaign of Mr. McAdoo, who has been my life-long friend and whom I know to be about as much of a sympathizer as I am with this odious hooded order that has dared to rear its venomous head in our political life. There was no more reason for his making public his personal views on that subject in anticipation of his choice by the Convention than there would have been for Mr. Davis or President Coolidge to have done so at that time, and no more reason than for him to have announced his views on the general issues that would be involved in the campaign-which is not customary and which none of the men did whose names were before the Convention. There were over thirty candidates before the Convention. They were not asked for expressions of their views. I do, however, know that, if nominated, Mr. McAdoo would have been as outspoken in his denunciation of the Klan as any decent citizen could desire. His closest friends and most staunch supporters throughout his public and private life have been among the people of our race.
“My admiration for the courageous, outspoken utterances of Senator LaFollettee on this subject is boundless. I expect the same unequivocal stand from Mr. Davis and have faith that his courage and American spirit will require him to express himself-regardless of consequences. Nothing less will satisfy me-not as a Jew but as a citizen. If he fails to announce himself I shall feel impelled to break away from my life-long allegiance to my Party-for I should then regard him as unworthy to be the leader of a great party.
“If, as I hope and believe, President Coolidge joins his opponents in a like frank expression of his position, this extraneous issue will have been happily eliminated from our political life, and our people of all faiths can thereafter proceed, hand in hand, at the proper time, by effective legislation, to suppress the activities of this outlaw hand.
“Momentous issues are involved in the impending campaign: The suppression of the Trusts and combinations and of private monopoly that infest the country in almost every line of industry and finance and that are largely responsible for the increased cost of
“Living has been rightly characterized as the chief issue. It is to be hoped that American citizens of all faiths and creeds will be permitted to concentrate their attention upon this and other real issues that are to be decided at the polis and that the misfortune of a division upon racial and religious lines will be averted.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.