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Religious Bigotry Still Widespread in United States, Study Shows

August 8, 1962
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Religious bigotry is still “widespread and deeply imbedded” in the United States, tensions are increasing, and there is little of the “dialogue” spirit among Catholic, Protestant and Jewish clergymen “on the local level,” two Reform rabbis declared here today.

The two are Rabbi Albert Vorspan, director of the Commission on Social Action of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations; and Rabbi Eugene J. Lip-man, former director of that commission. Their report was contained in a 344-page book, entitled “A Tale of Ten Cities.” In their survey, they studied the religious situations and attitudes in New York, Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Muncie, Ind., Nashville, Philadelphia, Plainview, L.I., a suburb of New York, and St. Paul-Minneapolis.

In general, they found that 90.7 per cent of the Jewish population in the United States is native-born; that the Jewish population is “the least religious” but possibly the best educated among the country’s three major faiths; and that American Jewish goals have shifted somewhat from piety and reliance on the Torah to values like security, wealth, power and success. In regard to the individual cities, they found:

New York has the ingredients of religious harmony, but “unresolved dissensions on issues of vast social significance” smolder beneath the surface. Religious discord, they stated, never quite erupts in social discord in New York, but New Yorkers “live in a never-never land of seemingly perpetual suspension.” They contended that the prognosis for New York is not happy, declaring the “religious scene is all but void of meaningful communication between the Catholic hierarchy and the organized Protestant and Jewish communities.”

In Boston, they stated, the religious leaders have been pulled together in the fight for better race relations. The authors credited Boston’s Richard Cardinal Cushing, whom they called the city’s “single, most powerful citizen,” with having made a “gigantic” step toward racial amity. The Catholic Church, they held, “dominates” much legislation in Massachusetts, especially in the fields of birth control and child adoption.

Cleveland was found virtually a “Jew-less” community, having 85,000 Jews, most of whom live outside the central city. “Little overt conflict” was noticeable in Cleveland among the city’s third of a million Catholics, approximately the same number of Protestants, some 250,000 Negroes, and the Jews. But a “five o’clock shadow” does exist in Cleveland; after office hours, Jews socialize mainly with Jews; Catholics, Protestants and Negroes fraternize chiefly with their own kind; and the city has “a long road to travel” toward lessening of religious divisions.


Los Angeles was found a “gray” area in interfaith relations, and the issue of Church-State relations there is perhaps “most fraught with tensions.” The religious leaders there, according to the report, have as yet not reacted by building interfaith cooperation in the face of “the reckless forays of the rampaging right.”

Philadelphia, with its total population of 1,200,000, has now 4 per cent Jews, 32 per cent white Protestants, and about the same percentages of white Catholics and Negro Christians, Protestants there were reported feeling “more edgy,” having been squeezed out of an earlier predominance. The Jews there were seen as feeling “secure,” and the Catholics as “riding a crest of self-confidence.” The city, according to the authors, has led the way nationally in “coping with the new dimensions of human relations” by facing possible divisive issues openly.

As to the “twin cities” of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the writers stated that they have “come to grips” with such issues as Sunday closing laws, the fact that the state emblem contains a cross, and other church-state problems. Minneapolis, they stated, is no longer the country’s “capital of anti-Semitism.” In both cities, there is little interfaith social mixing outside business hours. The authors felt that “channels of interfaith dialogue” could be deepened in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Muncie, once a hotbed of Ku Klux Klanism, has 61,000 Protestants, 5,500 Catholics — and 175 Jews. Sub-surface tensions exist there, the rabbis found, in housing and in social and “service” clubs. The latter engage in discriminatory practices, according to the rabbis, “aimed mostly at Jews.”

Nashville, the scene of violence, synagogue-bombings and hatred in the last five years, was viewed hopefully. The authors stated that this city, predominantly Protestant, is “working quietly” for justice, and is making progress slowly. They attributed much of the violence there to “poor whites, the failures and the loafers” who make up most of the extreme segregationists.

Plainview, L.I. was cited for a “statesmanlike” formula worked out by Jewish and Catholic leaders in settlement of a dispute that erupted in 1956 over public school observance of Christmas. This suburban community, about 40 miles from New York, contains about 30,000 persons, of whom 35 per cent are Jews, 50 per cent Catholics, and the remainder Protestants. The Plainview formula was recommended as a model for other suburban communities.

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