Jewish Groups Condemn Administration for Its Role in Leading to Death of Four Students
Menu JTA Search

Jewish Groups Condemn Administration for Its Role in Leading to Death of Four Students

Download PDF for this date

A number of Jewish organizations denounced the Nixon administration this weekend for creating an atmosphere that led to the fatal shooting last Monday of four Kent State University students, three of whom were Jewish, by Ohio State National Guardsmen, The Chicago Board of Rabbis declared in a telegram to President Nixon that “the attitude implicit in recent administration statements” about student dissidents “feeds the flames of violence and confrontation and encourages the tragic use of force against demonstrators.” The board, which sent its telegram also to Illinois Senators Charles Percy and Ralph Smith, said it deplored the violence on college campuses “and especially the tragic deaths of four innocent students.” It declared that, “Branding students who demonstrate for peace and freedom as campus ‘bums’ creates the dangerous climate in which legitimate and idealistic dissent is seen as un-American.” The President used that term in an off-the-cuff comment earlier last week. The telegram, signed by Rabbi Seymour Cohen, president, and Rabbi Mordecai Simon, executive director, urged the President “to recognize publicly the nobility and courage of those who risk their lives and careers for peace here in America.”

Five national Jewish rabbinic and synagogal organizations, representing the Conservative, Orthodox and Reform branches of American Jewry, joined in a statement to denounce “the gulf that separates many of this nation’s youth from the institutions of government and its leaders.” Declaring that the nation cannot live in fear of its own youth, the presidents of the five groups asserted that “our entire society, as we know it, cannot survive in a repressive atmosphere in which non-violent dissenters are treated with disdain, contempt and worse.” They declared that “under no conceivable circumstances could the pointblank firing into a crowd of students at Kent State University be justified.” Signatories to the statement, which was issued through the Synagogue Council of America, were Rabbi Roland Gittlesohn, president of the (Reform) Central Conference of American Rabbis; Earl Morse, board chairman of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Rabbi Gershon Levy, president of the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly; Jacob Stein, president of the United Synagogue of America; and Rabbi Zeg Segal, president of the (Orthodox) Rabbinical Council of America. The Synagogue Council is the central coordinating agency for the national synagogal and rabbinic organizations of the three branches of Judaism. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the sixth affiliate, did not sign the statement.


Rabbi Elias Charry, president of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia said one of the effects of the Cambodia escalation “most recently and terribly,” was the killing of four Kent University students. He said the “polarization” of the American people must end-that this was “our first priority.” He added that only the President could bring this about “by an immediate cessation of the Cambodian adventure and by continuing the program of withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam with all haste.” President Nixon was urged by the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods to call upon the governors of the fifty states to restrict National Guardsmen from carrying live ammunition in their weapons while on duty in civil disorders, “except in extreme emergency” and only upon direct orders of an “authorized officer who personally assumes responsibility and the results for giving orders.” The appeal to the President also urged that “no unarmed civilians be fired upon without due warning.” in a telegram signed by Mrs. David Mrs. Levitt and Miss Jane Evans, president and executive director, respectively, of the NFTS, Mr. Nixon was told that “the tragedy that occurred on campus of Kent State University must never be repeated.”

The B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations sent telegrams of condolences to the parents of the four slain Kent State students. The Foundations’ telegram said the association was making “every meaningful effort to help create a society in which this kind of horror will never recur.” The Foundations also urged chapters to keep buildings and facilities open this weekend for students use to “develop strategy and action programs” to protest the Cambodian invasion. In a memorandum to Hillels’ 240 units across the country, the Foundations outlined actions being taken by local units including memorial services for the four students, contacting area synagogues to conduct similar services, and sending petitions to Congressional and Administration leaders opposing the widening of the war and calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund