As we go to press, the New York City’s Mayor’s Special Committee on Racial and Religious Prejudice has brought in a report confirming fears of the alarming growth of bigotry in New York City.
While, sadly, New York’s jewish community has come to expect sporadic outbursts of anti-Semitism from black extremists (the most recent, a diatribe in the publication, African-American Teachers Forum, effectively answered in the public prints by Shad Polier, chairman of AJCongress’ National Governing Council), it has not been prepared to anticipate that responsible institutions and Media, bastions of high Culture, would abet the dissemination of vicious anti-Semitic slurs, and worse yet, that its officials would offer either stubborn or fatuous defenses of their egregious lapses in taste and judgement.
To cite two examples: Recently Station WBAI-F gave time to Lester Campbell, a controversial teacher who read a poem by one of his students beginning: “Hey, jew boy, with that yarmulka on your head; you pale-faced jew boy – I wish you were dead.” The poem was dedicated to Albert Shanker, president of the United Federation of Teachers.
After the UFT filed a complaint with the FCC, Frank A. Milspaugh, the station’s general manager, offered this absurdly pious defense: “There is no question that there is anti-Semitism among an element of the black community ... These feelings will not disappear by pretending they do not exist; I hope that they may be alleviated by open and public discussion.”
The second example concerns the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Harlem on My Mind” exhibition. In an introduction to the catalogue of the show, written by a negro girl when she was sixteen (an instance, in itself, of curious judgement), appear the most offensive anti-semitic sentiments. After a deluge of protests, which included Mayor Lindsay’s, the Museum hastily included a paragraph of disclaimer. The disclaimer, as the AJCongress noted in the press, was “half-hearted and did not end the libel against the jews.”
Thomas P.F. Hoving, the Museum Director, at this writing, apparently still clings to the position, that the introduction expressed the “truth” and that “if the truth hurts, so be it.” We publish below a letter, responding to Mr. Hoving’s statements, by Arthur J. Lelyveld, President of the American Jewish Congress.