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Anti-segregationists Threaten Jews in Virginia over Rabbi’s Sermon

October 1, 1958
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A virtual ultimatum demanding that Northern Virginia Jews “condemn” Rabbi Emmet A. Frank of Alexandria’s Temple Beth El has been issued by organized segregationists because of a Yom Kippur sermon in which the rabbi criticized Virginia’s “massive resistance” to school desegregation.

As a result of this segregationist pressure and an attack on the rabbi by former Mayor Marshall J. Beverley of the City of Alexandria, the Temple’s board of trustees has called an emergency meeting to discuss the sermon. Leroy S. Bendheim, president of the Temple’s board, made known plans to ask for the special board meeting. Mr. Bendheim is also the current Mayor of Alexandria.

Mayor Bendheim declined to comment publicly on the sermon. He said only that in view of the situation which has developed “we ought to discuss it.” The sermon charged that Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd did” more harm to the stability of our country than McCarthyism.”

Infuriated by the sermon, Virginia’s largest segregationist group “The Defenders of State Sovereignty” demanded that Virginia Jews “move quickly to refute and condemn Rabbi Frank.” Ex-Mayor Beverley, a candidate for the state Senate and a cousin of Sen. Byrd, accused Rabbi Frank of being a “100 percent integrationist.” of making” an untrue statement, ” and of violating American tradition separating church from state.

Replying to the attack by the ex-Mayor, Rabbi Frank said: “I have no desire to enter the political arena, but since when is any arena divorced from Divine Guidance?” Where there is no leadership, the people stumble; where there is improper leadership, they fall. I am afraid it is Mr. Beverley who has stepped outside of God’s arena, not I who have stepped into the political arena.”

Rabbi Frank said that following his Yom Kippur sermon he received “an unusually large number of statements of approval and support.” A leading member of Temple Beth El made known that a “considerable” number of members feared the rabbi’s stand might result in increased anti-Semitism and possible violence from segregationists. Others sided with the rabbi, holding that he had a spiritual and moral duty to speak out for social justice.

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