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Tensions Between New York’s Jews, Negroes Continue Escalating Amidst Charges

January 27, 1969
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Tensions between New York’s Jewish and Negro communities continued to escalate over the weekend with new charges of anti-Semitism, counter-charges of ant-Negro bias, and a series of investigations begun or announced on various levels. There were new expressions of virulent anti-Semitism by Negroes on WBAI-FM, the listener-supported radio station already under investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for broadcasting an anti-Semitic poem last Dec. 26. And in one segment of the Jewish community a threat was voiced to organize Jewish vigilante brigades to combat what was alleged to be a Negro crime wave against Jews.

The newest conflict erupted as Junior High School 22 in The Bronx whose student body is 50 percent Negro and 40 percent Puerto Rican. Its Jewish principal, Edward L. Solomon, charged a black community group supported by poverty-agency funds with anti-Semitic harassment. His charges were under investigation by the Human Rights Commission and the Human Resources Administration, Jerome a. A. Greene, an official of the group, the Morrisania Community Corporation, has demanded a state and city investigation of charges that Mr. Solomon discriminated against a Negro job applicant. Mr. Solomon said that intruders disrupted classes, threatened teachers and circulated anti-Semitic literature in the neighborhood in what he charged was “a well-organized and well-financed plan to harass white Jewish educators…happening all over the city.” Mr. Greene claimed that Mr. Solomon had turned down a Negro applicant for a position as educational assistant on grounds that he needed bilingual aid but subsequently hired a Jew who was not bilingual.

City Council President Francis X. Smith meanwhile urged Mayor John V. Lindsay to call an urgent conference of key white and Negro leaders “on ways to allay tension.” Mr. Smith addressed himself specifically to expressions of anti-Semitism by Negro teachers and warned those “who teach anti-Semitic material in our schools should not do so with impunity.” Mr. Smith’s view was shared by Judge Bernard Botein, retired justice of the Appelate Division who headed Mayor Linday’s special committee on racial and religious prejudice in the city. The committee published last week a report which indicated anti-white sentiment by Negroes and anti-Negro reaction by whites. In a statement Friday, Judge Botein charged that “continued silence” by white Christians and Negro leaders was abetting the anti-Semitic attacks by black extremists.

In Albany, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller ordered the State Human Rights Commission to intensify its probe into anti-Semitism. The commission will conduct hearings on recent attacks on synagogues and will formulate plans to reduce tensions over which the Governor is said to be “very concerned.”

The FCC inquiry into the reading of an anti-Semitic poem on WBAI was held up to include a new complaint against the station. The complaint was made in a telegram from the Workmen’s Circle, a Jewish fraternal labor organization, demanding suspension of WBAI’s license pending a hearing. The telegram, from Israel Bresiow, president, and Benjamin Gebiner, executive secretary, charged that WBAI was “the ghost of Joseph Goebbels’ Nazi radio network.” They referred to last Thursday’s Julius Lester show which was devoted to reaction to the reading of an anti-Semitic poem on the same program last month by a controversial Negro school teacher, Leslie R. Campbell. Mr. Lester, a Negro activist, agreed with three Negro panel members that the poem was a valid expression of the prevailing sentiment among black students. One of the latter, Tyrone Woods, who described himself as a New York University student and resident of the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn, alleged that “What Hitler did to six million Jews is nothing compared to what has been done to black people.” He added, “As far as I’m concerned, more power to Hitler. He didn’t make enough lamp shades out of them. He didn’t make enough belts out of them.” Mr. Lester commented moments later that WBAI was not responsible for the opinions expressed on its programs.


In Brooklyn, an Orthodox rabbi, Jacob Hecht, vice president of the “National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education,” warned that if Jews in troubled areas cannot get protection from government agencies, they would organize Jewish brigades to serve as “an auxiliary police force” patrolling the streets. Rabbi Hecht alleged that “in the name of racial understanding, we Jews have become too lenient and too lax and are thus perpetuating a situation that is causing more and more hostility to be directed by Negroes against our synagogues and our people.” He added the claim that Negro crime in the streets was directed against the Jews.

In Far Rockaway, once a Jewish seaside resort, now a mixed Jewish-Negro neighborhood in which the Orthodox element prevails, an inquiry was under way by the New York State Division of Human Rights into a fire that destroyed a synagogue last Jan. 3. The fire department found no evidence of arson but Jewish witnesses took an opposite view and charged the city administration and the police and fire departments with “irresponsibility.” There has been a rash of suspicious fires in Jewish synagogues and Hebrew schools in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. A number of juvenile suspects have been arrested, all of them white and, at least in two cases, Jewish. One 10-year-old Jewish boy admitted having set a series of fires in the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center earlier this month.

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