Pointing out that it has taken no official position on the question of banning the books “Oliver Twist” and “The Merchant of Venice” from the New York City school system because of the unfavorable characterization of Jewish characters, the Teachers Union today addressed a statement to the Board of Education pointing out that the Union is “disturbed” by the Board’s opposition to this ban in the light of its readiness to ban other books and periodicals at the request of community groups.
“There are many people in the city who are disturbed, whether rightly or wrongly, by the use of ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice’ in our schools,” the Union statement said. “Their fear is that the portrayal of the Jewish characters in these books is offensive to the point of danger; that the anti-Jewish characters in these books is offensive to the point of danger; that the anti-Jewish prejudices already absorbed by many of our adolescents will be reinforced. Those who have such fears–and we are not discussing the validity of their point of view–constitute a sizeable group in our population. Their concern emanates from their vivid recollection of how anti-Semitic propaganda led to the murder of six million Jews in Europe.”
Criticizing the role of Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Jansen, who defended retention of the volumes in the public school curriculum, the Union pointed out that Dr. Jansen’s office banned from the schools Arthur Miller’s novel “Focus,” which attacks anti-Semitism, because “it is offensive to the Roman Catholic Church,” and the magazine “The Nation” because it printed a series of articles criticizing the activities of the Catholic Church in the social and political spheres.
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.