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

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

Jacob M. Rothschild: His Legacy Twenty Years After1

JANICE ROTHSCHILD BLUMBERG

Rabbi Rothschild was one of the best-known southern supporters of black rights. Like other civil rights activists, he was subjected to threats, and his congregation was bombed even though it was located in one of the more cosmopolitan and moderate cities of the region. Janice Rothschild Blumberg's essay demonstrates that Rabbi Rothschild, too, preferred to work behind the scenes and through the Christian clergy and clerical organizations whenever possible. Confrontation, as Rabbi Danziger observed, symbolized failure. Rothschild's story also illustrates limits to coalition building. When conflict about methods arose, even long-term associations could be severed, leaving a well-intentioned individual in distress.

When Jacob M. "Jack" Rothschild ( 1911-1973) chose the rabbinate as his lifework he did not think specifically of race relations as a central part of that activity. Growing up in the Reform congregation Rodeph Sholom in Pittsburgh, he had been influenced by the forthright sermons of his own rabbi, Dr. Samuel Goldenson, against exploitation of labor in the steel industry and by the extraordinary courage of his father's sister and her husband, Rabbi Samuel Mayerburg, in actively opposing the Pendergast machine in Kansas City.2

He was attracted by the teachings of the Prophets and viewed the mission of a twentieth-century American rabbi primarily as an obligation to lead others in applying those precepts to the issues encountered in daily life. Nevertheless, he often commented that had it not been for civil rights, he didn't know what he would have accomplished in his

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