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Washington Group Alleges Unscrupulous Jews Are Root Cause of Negro Anti-Semitism

May 23, 1968
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A group of young Jewish intellectuals, calling themselves "Jews for Urban Justice," alarmed by the rise they feel is occurring in anti-Semitism among Negroes, today charged that "unscrupulous Jewish businessmen and landlords are the root cause of this anti-Semitism." Alleging that Jews are "part of the power structure" and that Jews "gyp and rob" Negroes in the ghetto, the group demanded that "rabbis, social action groups, and leaders of the Jewish Community Council focus primary attention on the actions of their own constituency."

A spokesman charged that the Jewish Community Center here had refused a Negro request for shower and bathing facilities for the Poor Peoples demonstration. He alleged that the center relented only after pressures were brought to bear. (After the Center designated hours during which facilities would welcome Negroes, none showed up, it was learned.)

A study made by Jews for Urban Justice, released to the press was based on interviews with rabbis, chairmen and presidents of 18 District of Columbia area Jewish organizations and synagogues. A spokesman for the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington said, however, that no interview was sought with Council leaders.

It was alleged by Jews for Urban Justice that large groups pass resolutions on equality but no action follows on the grass-roots level. Of 13 Reform rabbis requested to permit a Negro mother on public welfare to speak, only one agreed, according to the report. Among the charges was one that a "slumlord" prosecuted by the authorities was honored during the High Holy Days when his synagogue permitted him to carry the Torah.

"We found few, if any, rabbis or social action committees that were seriously addressing the issue of dishonest and discriminatory practices among members of their own congregations…it was evident that the Orthodox and Conservative Councils of Rabbis, as well as the Washington Board of Rabbis, have not concerned themselves with the more serious social action problems confronting the Washington community…We noted the complete absence of social action committees or activities in Orthodox synagogues and the opposition to such activities by Orthodox rabbis," the group said. The group demanded "more emphasis on the relevance of the Judaic ethic to contemporary problems of our society." Members conducting the press conference at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism were Michael Tabor, Susan Pogash and Sharlene Kranz.

Jewish communal sources attacked the report as allegedly slanted and unscientific because of generalizations. They said that in recent months "Black Power" elements have refused Jewish cooperation in solution of local problems. It was reported that a considerable sum of money and food was contributed through the Jewish community to the Poor Peoples March and the aims of the demonstration were endorsed by the Jewish Community Council. Jewish volunteers have worked in various capacities to assist the demonstrators. A main point made in rebuttal was that the Jewish community could no more take responsibility for every unethical merchant who might be Jewish than Protestant or Catholic groups could be blamed for unscrupulous persons of those faiths.

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