THE OPEN MIND
Sunday, December 21, 1958
ANTI-SEMITISM – PART II
MODERATOR: Richard Heffner
GUESTS: Edwin J. Lukas
ANNOUNCER: The Open Mind, free to examine, to question, to disagree. Our subject today: “Anti-Semitism – Part II”. Your host on The Open Mind is Richard D. Heffner, historian, teacher, and author of “A Documentary History of the United States.”
MR. HEFFNER: Our guests on last Sunday’s program on anti-Semitism were so compelling in what they had to say that we asked them to come back again today and continue this discussion of anti-Semitism.
A lot of people have said to me since we did that program that we didn’t talk about the causes of anti-Semitism, and I will have to take the responsibility for having broken off the discussion of causes.
We did, though, talk about definition, and we talked about extent. I think the definition that Mr. Forster gave was one that generally the panel accepted, ant that is anti-Semitism is an attitude which impels non-Jews to treat Jews – and I would say and to think about Jews – differently, in a hostile way, of course, from the way he treats or thinks about all other people. That notion was accepted by the panel.
Then we went on to the question of the extent of anti-Semitism, and here I think that the gentlemen on the panel all agreed in comparative terms that anti-Semitism was less wide-spread today than it was let’s say twenty years ago.
But I think the panel did not answer in certain ways the question of how extensive is anti-Semitism today. And with that critical note I will turn to the panelists, introduce them, and go on with the program.
My panelists are once again Mr. Edwin J. Lukas of the American Jewish Committee. Next, Mr. Arnold Forster of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. Thirdly, Mr. Will Maslow of the American Jewish Congress. And all three of these gentlemen are involved in directing the civil rights programs of their respective organizations.
Gentlemen, I’d like to go back to the point at which we ended the program on last Sunday and quote just briefly from a report, a very recent report, of the American Jewish Congress, a report of only a few weeks ago.
It says here that much, if not most, of the violence and bigotry can be explained only in terms of mental illness; and publicizing accounts of anti-Semitism defamation and vandalism are likely to stimulate similar reactions on the part of the psychologically diseased person.
Now I read this when we began to talk about what we do about anti-Semitism and it seemed to me that this was in a sense a guidepost; the implication for me was that we don’t talk at length in public about anti-Semitic defamation and vandalism because we are afraid that it will stimulate similar reactions. And Mr. Lukas at one point on our last program talked about the bleeding lamb that excites the tiger.
Now let’s pick it up there again. Mr. Maslow?
MR. MASLOW: I think you have misread the sentence, Mr. Heffner.
MR. HEFFNER: I didn’t misquote it.
MR. MASLOW: No. We would distinguish, for example, between publicizing bomb threats. We have been advised by police and other authorities – and we accept the advice that they have given us – that publicizing bomb threats doesn’t help in any way to catch those who make the threats, and on the contrary, encourages juvenile delinquents and others to engage in the same type of prank.
On the other hand we think it’s our duty, for example, to publicize the facts about a quota system in a college or a restrictive immigration policy of a country. There we see positive gains by publicizing it.
MR. HEFFNER: So that in terms of what to do about anti-Semitism you are merely saying you wouldn’t publicize threats or violence.
MR MASLOW: Bomb threats we would not publicize. We would not publicize, for example, acts of vandalism in a cemetery because mere publicizing will not help us to cope with the problem. Nor would we publicize the irresponsible tirades and rantings of hatemongers, because that won’t help us to cope with the problem. But we certainly will publicize bombings of synagogues.
MR. HEFFNER: OK. Mr. Lukas.
MR. LUKAS: I’d like to equate this, if I may, Mr. Heffner, with the problem of crime generally, the problems of law and order. I think by this time it is accepted that the susceptible, the vulnerable in our population, are rather responsive to certain kinds of excitements or incitements.
Many years ago there was the problem of the effect of comic books upon young boys and girls. I hope that problem has by this time been at least partially solved by a resolution of this primary rather basic discussion of motivation, namely, that in our population the vulnerable, the susceptible, are more readily stirred by stories of violence that the others, than the general population. This means, among other things, that in the comic book field, and now in the context in which we are discussing the question of violence, in this field we suspect that primarily the outrages in the South are largely due to the excitement or incitement of rather pathological creatures, namely, the people, the individuals, rather than the organized groups that are readily incited by literature. And in this case it’s the hate literature.
I think that Mr. Maslow has a point here; and the point that I would like to emphasize or underline at this juncture is that the unnecessary publication of incidents in the South is likely to incite or excite pathological people who have secret susceptibilities that we have not been able to reach.
MR. HEFFNER: Mr. Forster.
MR. FORSTER: I’d begin from a completely different base. This country obviously has a free press. It’s not a controlled press and I don’t think the three of us together, separately, or with any other group of people, control what is in the press or in the various media of communication. The American people have a natural curiosity to know what is happening in their midst and elsewhere, and we regard it as a service and a responsibility to the community to fulfill that request for information, so that if a bombing occurs in some city and the AP or the INS or one of the great magazines comes into our office and asks for data around that bombing if we have it we will give it to them; and we will not think in terms of whether or not this information should or should not be made available to the American people.
We have too much faith in the plain commonsense of the American people to believe or to feel that by telling them about the activities of cranks or crackpots that we are going to stimulate additional crackpot activities. We think this country is a healthy one and a strong one. We think it can look at itself in the mirror. We think we can afford to say to the American people, “There’s a rash on your face; here it is.” And we believe that the American people, recognizing the rash, will attempt to cure it. So that we can’t talk in the frame that you have talked about, whether or not it’s advisable or inadvisable to release this kind of information. If the American people want it we say of course give it to them.
MR. HEFFNER: Quite to the contrary, it seems to me that in the second part of your answer you did answer the question that I posed because let’s not talk about the availability of news in a nation that believes in a free press. Let’s just talk about what we can do about anti-Semitism and what we are doing in terms of making this news available. Let’s forget, just set aside, not forget, but set aside these other points.
The second part of what you said here seemed to be diametrically opposed to what Mr. Lukas was saying about stimulating the people. You said you have enough faith in the American people.
MR. FORSTER: Oh, I don’t think Ed disagrees with that at all. I think we have a common base there.
MR. HEFFNER: In doing something about anti-Semitism.
MR. LUKAS: I have faith in the American people. I have no faith in the pathological American. I have no faith in the psychopath. I have no faith in the psychotic, but I hope, Mr. Heffner, that your promise of a moment ago that we would get into what we can do about it is about to paid off at this point because I’d like to get into that.
I think this is perhaps the nub of the question, and in that connection I wonder whether I might tell a story because I think that what we are dealing with here is largely the uninformed American, not the American in whom I have faith, as I know Arnold Forster has.
Some years ago the American Jewish Committee did a study of prejudice, what makes the bigoted person a bigot, how does he get that way? What are the dynamics of prejudice? And so, among other things, we questioned about 12,000 people. It took a long time; it took three or four years. Each interview took about three or four hours.
Among the questions asked was the following – and I’d like to give it exactly, or paraphrase it as it was given to about 12,000 people:
With which of the following groups of people would you rather not – and then I think five things were mentioned: ride downtown in the bus with; have your children play with or go to school with; go into business with; live alongside; and I think go to a baseball game with.
And then they named thirteen existing groups: Protestants, South Americans, North Dakotans, Jews, Catholics, Negroes, et cetera. Into this group of thirteen existing ethnic, religious, national groups they insinuated three non-existent groups. They were called – and these are truly non-existent – Dinerians, Wallonians, and Pyreeneans.
A rather frightening and startling thing happened. Of the 12,000 people interviewed many, many hundreds of them would not allow their children to play with Dinerians; wouldn’t go into business with Wallonians; and wouldn’t go to the theater with Pyreeneans.
Now what does this rather pathetic story tell us? It means, among other things, I think, that prejudice, the kind of prejudice we’re doing business with, is based on the lack of factual information. If, indeed, you would not go into business with a non-existent human being, and the three of us around this table, our agencies must develop techniques for dealing with the prejudices, the attitudes of people who will not do business with or have their children go to school with existing people, what techniques can we develop? I raise the question, for dealing with the prejudice against non-existent people.
MR. HEFFNER: It would seem to me that maybe the answer is just shrug your shoulders and say there’s nothing you can do. Mr. Maslow, go ahead.
MR. MASLOW: We would disagree that prejudice arises, or anti-Semitic prejudice arises, from ignorance. If that were so then all you would have to do would simply be to raise educational levels.
But in many countries, for example in pre-Hitler Germany, anti-Semitic prejudice was at its height among the top level of your society, among those who had the highest positions in the academic world; and certainly it wasn’t because they had any less information that the working class had. It was because they were competing with the Jews in the academic world, in the business world, in the intellectual world.
MR. HEFFNER: Well, in that context what do you do about it? What do you do about anti-Semitism?
MR. MASLOW: Well, there are two chief approaches and I think perhaps our agencies tend to lend varying stresses to these approaches. You either concentrate on prejudice, mental attitudes, or you concentrate on discriminatory behavior.
My own agency concentrates on discriminatory behavior. We don’t believe that you can gain very much by direct assaults, by use of the mass media in any exploitive way. We believe that if you can correct discriminatory behavior the attitudes will shape themselves as they go along and prejudice will diminish.
MR. HEFFNER: Mr. Forster.
MR. FORSTER: Well, we obviously take a somewhat differing approach. We believe there are three methods of attacking the problem. First is the educational process. We have a great faith in it.
Secondly, we engage in a process which is known in the trade as community action, which means bringing people together constantly on every level in every way to live together whether it be in the social area, in the economic area, or what you will.
And then, thirdly, we believe in the efficacy of law and legislation.
But I think before you begin to ask how you correct it you must identify, if you can, what are the causes of anti-Semitism since obviously if you know the causes you might know how to attack it much as do physicians.
MR. HEFFNER: I’m being overruled. Go ahead.
MR. FORSTER: Well, I don’t intend to overrule you, but I think when you ask what should be done about anti-Semitism I think you are like the doctor. The patient wants to know what is to be done about my disease, and the doctor must necessarily say first, “I want to know what your disease is”; and so when you ask what ought to be done about religious or racial prejudice I want to know what causes it. And obviously there are many reasons for racial and religious prejudice. There are sick reasons; the crackpots to whom Ed Lukas refers are the sick people. And parenthetically I might say that we would not guide our actions on the basis of the reactions of the sick people. We can’t be concerned with them. But obviously there are people who are prejudiced who are not sick. There are people who are prejudiced because they’re frustrated, for example, because they feel deprived, because they have been failures economically and need a scapegoat, because they’re afraid of the different people, the strange people. Your three non-existent groups – this is perfectly understandable and not frightening or startling that person’s answers would say that they would not want to work with them. They don’t know who they are. This is the mystery of it and they are afraid of that of which they are ignorant.
If you understand that number one is fear, for example, of the unknown, it seems to me a primary responsibility is to explain the Jew to the American community so that the average American knows precisely what a Jew is, what makes him tick, what his contribution is, how he thinks. I think the average American will learn that a Jew is no different from himself. But I think this points in the direction of what has to be done.
Go ahead, Ed, I don’t want to occupy all the time. I’m deliberately finished.
MR. LUKAS: Actually we subscribe to both of these. I think there is virtue in both of these approaches, the so-called legal or legalistic approach that Will spoke of, striking at the acts of discrimination. This is a very potent, a very basic approach to the problem of discrimination, although I think, Will, you will agree that it deals largely with, strikes largely at the symptoms of –
MR. MASLOW: No, I would never agree to that.
MR. LUKAS: Well, in any event I think that by enacting new laws or by bringing about interpretations of existing statutes what we do is to create new living situations which themselves have tremendous educational value.
However, I think also my friends here would agree that success in bringing about these new living and working situations in large part depends upon the preparation of the community for these situations. I think that fair employment practices and even fair educational practices succeeded largely in direct ratio to the preparation of the community for these practices.
I think one of the tragedies of the South at the moment is that the South wasn’t prepared for the May 1954 decision.
We take the position, too, that education, education in its purest sense, is an extremely valuable tool in this context, education of the school-age child, even the pre-school-age child, and particularly the parent of the school-age child.
Justice Holmes was having a correspondence so many years ago with Harold Lasky, and he commented on the fact that law and the decisions of the courts…both of these are extremely valuable. Unhappily, the laws are enacted and the decisions are made in communities in which the people are less prepared for it. But, said Justice Holmes, these are the very people we intend to affect by our decisions.
MR. HEFFNER: Mr. Maslow.
MR. MASLOW: I wanted to comment further on the so-called educational approach. We have a somewhat different view. We think, for example, that it’s a waste of time to attempt to develop the so-called positive image of the Jew. We would rather see education proceed along different lines. We think that the chief security of the Jew in the United States, and indeed of any group, of all Americans, depends upon the guarantees in the Bill of Rights, and those guarantees can be condensed into three words: liberty – that is, the rights of free expression –, equality, and justice.
Now here the Jew begins with a tremendous advantage in his favor. This is a country with a positive tradition of liberty and equality and fair play, and we think, therefore, encouraging that tradition to develop in every way does more to reduce prejudice than any direct assault upon anti-Semitism actions.
MR. HEFFNER: But if our tradition is such a positive one of liberty, equality, and freedom then I wonder whether we don’t get back to this matter of making well known the acts of discrimination and the acts of violence and the acts of vandalism, and then counting on this tradition, this thing that we hope is inherent within the American people to act up, to rise up.
MR. MASLOW: I think that’s not a real issue. We all agree that they should be made well known.
MR. HEFFNER: But shouldn’t this be one of the basic principles?
MR. MASLOW: It is so far as I am aware. In fact, the contrary has been asserted, that these acts of vandalism and bombing are exaggerated, not that they are not sufficiently publicized.
MR. HEFFNER: Well, thus far I think it’s only in your American Jewish Congress report which that charge is made, in which the effort is made to play down the publication of these reports.
Let me now get back on that because I know Mr. Forster has a point that he wants to make.
MR. FORSTER: No, not especially. Will provoked in my mind the notion that there is more than just one weapon to deal with prejudice, besides democracy, and I think that’s what you are talking about, democracy in all its implications: our Constitutional concept, our traditions, et cetera; I think there’s religion, and I think religion is a weapon against anti-Semitism. I think fundamentally the notion that God created man in His own image is something that is a basic premise in an approach to the problem.
I think science is on our side against prejudice and I think it can and should be used that all the science available indicates that there are no differences in the terms in which we are thinking among racial and religious groups; and I think you have law in addition to democracy as such, which as Will indicates, is one of his major emphases.
But I don’t think it’s appropriate to suggest that there is only one meaningful or effective approach to the problem of solving anti-Semitism.
MR. HEFFNER: Well, you say that science is on the side of indicating there are no differences between these groups, biological differences. But let me ask whether you three gentlemen find that when Jews identify themselves as essentially belonging to a nationality, or when Jews identify themselves as belonging essentially to an ethnic group, in which instance is there likely to be less or more anti-Semitism?
MR. FORSTER: Dick, anti-Semitism does not begin with the Jew. Anti-Semitism begins with the other fellow. When you say something that excites me it’s my problem, not yours, don’t you see? Now what you are trying to do is transmit to the Jew the basic cause for this problem, and obviously from what I have said before I don’t believe that. When I find the causes of anti-Semitism they are not in the Jew but they are in the frustration that I talked about, the need for scapegoating that I suggested, the general insecurity that we find around, and the other things that Ed and Will have pointed to. So that the basic assumption of your question, I think, is improper.
MR. MASLOW: And anti-Semitism, in other words, is not a Jewish problem, it’s a Christian problem. It doesn’t arise from any behavior of the Jew. This is a problem that arises in the mind of the beholder, not in the mind of the subject here.
MR. HEFFNER: Well, then let me ask you this question in terms of what you are both saying. Is there any statistical evidence that when the Jew does identify himself as one or another or another that there is more anti-Semitism?
MR. FORSTER: Well, I remember the classic case, Dick, when I first joined the Anti-Defamation League in the late thirties. There was a small town – it will go nameless at this point – in West Virginia, which built a small village park. And they put a sign up over the park: “No Jews Allowed.”
Our agency went in to look over the situation and we found a very strange thing. In this very small community there was not a single Jewish family resident. And it became clear to us the problem was not what Jews had done but the attitudes of the people who created the park and put up the sign.
MR. HEFFNER: It sounds like Mr. Lukas’ survey.
MR. LUKAS: Exactly. I was about to say there were no Dinerins and Wallonians and Pyreeneans either in the communit8iesof the 12,000 people who were being interviewed.
Coming back to the religious education as a weapon here, we touched on this rather lightly it seems to me. This is, after all, a Judaic-Christian country. Church membership is increasing, synagogue membership is increasing. I think religious education is an extremely important weapon here.
About two months ago we held a rather significant meeting. We gathered in one room for two days about twenty-seven educators, clerics, and journalists representing Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish journalism and education. And we got down to some rather brass tacks.
We discussed some of the basic religious differences, in some instances marked, in other instances rather fading and abating. We discovered that some of our differences were really differences existing off the ground, somewhere in the atmosphere; some of them were down on the ground. But the point is that we succeeded in identifying them, narrowing the differences; and this I want to stress, in understanding why we differ.
We discovered, among other things, that anti-Semitism does not arise out of religious difference. It arises out of some of the things we discussed last week and that we might go on discussing next week if you had us back next week, which I doubt that you would want to. But they arise in areas in connection with matters unrelated to religion itself. After all, we all worship the same God. We worship Him on different days perhaps, different hours of the day. I prefer to believe that as Will Maslow said last week, we are dealing, I tried to suggest, with psychodynamic factors. Will suggested that they might have to do with cultural matters. I think they are a combination of both. But whatever they are I hope that we will, the three of us, three agencies, agree on one thing; I know we can. That law is a weapon here, education is a weapon here – and by education I mean both secular education as well as sectarian education. I think also an understanding as we tried to reach a couple of months ago among these 27 journalists and educators, understanding of why our differences exist and where they might indeed by made narrower, I think these are the three principal weapons and basic tools we have.
MR. MASLOW: Nevertheless, merely calling a program educational or merely calling a program legal or legislative doesn’t mean that it is necessarily an effective way of dealing with it. There is a time and occasion for each of these approaches.
I’m not prepared to admit that merely increasing attendance in synagogues or increasing attendance in churches automatically is going to diminish anti-Semitism.
MR. HEFFNER: I don’t think that Mr. Lukas is saying that.
MR. LUKAS: No, I haven’t suggested it.
MR. MASLOW: You asked about statistical evidence on a particular question. We don’t have statistical evidence. We have all sorts of historical factors. We are dealing with a problem that is some two thousand years old, and we know that when the Jews treat themselves as a religion, as a national group, as a people, or under any other label, it is not their behavior that creates anti-Semitism.
MR. HEFFNER: Well, I think that his is an extremely important point and of course I raised the question because there are so many people, Jews and Non-Jews, who say that if the Jews were to take a particular position as a national group, or as only a religious group, or as an ethnic group, that they would combat anti-Semitism this way. But I’m very interested to hear you gentlemen say that really the shoe is literally on the other foot because when you are talking about the origin of anti-Semitism and what to do about it you have to look at the man who is anti-Semitic.
MR. FORSTER: I would disagree with Will in only one respect, and that is the efficacy of education. We had a perfect example, I think, in several freedom pamphlets, which are publications which our agency – the Anti-Defamation League – gets out.
In St. Louis they successfully integrated. In Washington D.C. they successfully integrated. In both instances our agency prepared in pamphlet form the complete story of that successful integration. We found that people involved in their own communities confronted with this problem asked for these pamphlets in order to see how it could be done successfully. They wanted to educate themselves on the handling of the problem; and in many communities on the periphery of the deep South indeed their use of these pamphlets held them in good stead in working along the rough road to an integration situation.
And so we think that there is very real value in the educational process.
MR. HEFFNER: One last word, Mr. Maslow.
MR. MASLOW: That wasn’t the criticism I had. The criticism I have is the classic example of using billboards or car cards or blotters with what really might be vulgarly described as the message of “Love that Jew.” That’s what we mean by a useless, perhaps even a harmful approach to this problem.
MR. HEFFNER: Isn’t it really love thy neighbor whether he is Jew or Christian?
MR. MASLOW: That approach has been tried now for two thousand years in millions of sermons. Merely asking or exhorting our fellow men to love one another is not going to solve the problem.
MR. HEFFNER: Well, I think that’s probably a spiritual note to end this program on. Thanks very much Mr. Lukas, Mr. Forster, and Mr. Maslow, for joining me a second week.
Mr. Lukas, I’m not going to ask you to come back next week, but I’ll ask you to come back once again some other time.
MR. LUKAS: I’d love to.
MR. HEFFNER: OK. We’ll be back again on The Open Mind next time with the subject: “Who Beat the Beat Generation?”