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Twenty Conservative Rabbis Fly to Birmingham to Back Negro Demands

May 9, 1963
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Twenty Conservative rabbis, responding to a challenge from one of their leaders, left in a body last night for Birmingham, Alabama, scene of repeated and continuing demonstrations by Negroes against racial barriers in that city.

The challenge was posed by Rabbi Bernard Mandelbaum, provost of the Jewish Theological Seminary, in an address to a session of the 63rd annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly of America, the association of Conservative rabbis now underway here.

Rabbi Mandelbaum told the 400 rabbinical delegates that it was a question how they could be concerned “only with Nazi cruelty when acts of injustice to fellow human beings were taking place in our country.” Rabbi Theodore Friedman, RAA president, thereupon introduced a resolution to send a delegation to Birmingham which was overwhelmingly approved.

The rabbis then placed a telephone call to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta and were told their presence in Birmingham was “urgent and of great importance.” Just before they left, they received a telephone call from A. D. King, brother of Rev. Martin Luther King, a leader in the struggle for Negro civil rights who told them “This is the time to come.”

The 20 rabbis boarded a plane for Newark after midnight to arrive in Birmingham at 5 a.m. after a stop in Atlanta. Expenses incurred by the 20 rabbis will be shared by voluntary contributions from delegates and that sum will be matched by an equal contribution from the RAA treasury. The delegates immediately contributed $1,500 toward the expenses.

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