The Quiet Voices: Southern Rabbis and Black Civil Rights, 1880s to 1990s

By Mark K. Bauman; Berkley Kalin | Go to book overview

Preface

In October 1992 several papers on southern rabbis and black civil rights were presented at the Southern Jewish Historical Society convention in Montgomery, Alabama. My colleague Berkley Kalin explained the Memphis experience of Rabbis Ettelson and Fineshriber, and Patricia LaPointe brought the discussion of that city into the heyday of the civil rights era with her work on James Wax. As so often happens, discussion continued in the hallways. Henry Green was researching Rabbi Leon Kronish of Miami, and Lee Shai Weissbach was knowledgeable about rabbis in the small towns of Kentucky. A UCLA graduate student, Marc Dollinger, gave a paper, based on his dissertation in progress, analyzing the experiences of Jews with the civil rights movement in the North and South. I compared my research on Atlanta's rabbis with Kalin's findings. Excitement mounted as those of us conversing realized that rabbinical participation in the civil rights movement in the South had begun earlier and had been far more widespread than the historiography indicated. Kalin and I agreed on a collaborative effort to introduce a more extensive body of research, and Malcolm MacDonald of the University of Alabama Press, who also attended the conference, encouraged the project.

One week after the Montgomery conference, I attended a session of the Southern Historical Association in Atlanta, where Raymond Mohl and Murray Friedman gave presentations on black-Jewish relations. Both speakers stressed the positive participation of Jews during the civil rights era. Pointed commentary was supplied by John Bracey, Jr., who questioned, among other things, the degree of involvement and motivation of Jews vis-à-vis the civil rights movement. The animated discussions I encountered at this session reinforced my resolve to gather under one cover as much of this important scholarship as I could.

Yet another opportunity presented itself during the weekend of 31 March 1995. I gave the keynote address at a conference that Kalin had organized at the University of Memphis, and many of the scholars whose work appears in this volume presented their findings.

Among the first detailed case studies of both well-known and hitherto little-known individuals, The Quiet Voices testifies to a far more widespread activism on the part of southern rabbis in the modern civil rights movement than has been acknowledged. These rabbis were motivated

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