Southern Jews during the Civil Rights Era

Editor’s note: In a recent blog (Jews and the Civil Rights Movement), I gave the standard account of Southern Jews gleaned from academic publications. Richard Thornbourn’s discussion is somewhat different because it is based on his personal experience and observations. It is therefore a valuable addition to our knowledge of Southern Jews during the Civil Rights era.

It was not unusual for small town Southern Jews to profess sympathy for segregation.

It would have been imprudent and financially suicidal for their courthouse square clothing stores for the Jews to have been overt in their hatred of White Christians and their civilization.

When I was a college student in the South, fairly often other students who came from small town Georgia argued in refutation to what I said about Jews—that the Jews in their home towns were not like “New York Jews” and caused no problems.

Several of these students as the years rolled by have come back into contact with me and updated this conversation.

The small town Jewish communities in the South have been dying out for the last generation or so. The kids didn’t want to live there anymore. They wanted to move to Atlanta or New York. It was hard to find wives and husbands and the Jews’ children had to scour the area going to great (geographic and other) lengths to find Jewish boys for their daughters to date and Jewish girls for their sons.

As the last marriageable Jewish children found mates and left Hickville for good, their parents came out as racial liberals.

In fact, it was discovered that the Jewish shopkeepers had secretly supported the local NAACP chapters, served as conduits of information to the Blacks and the government about the local White community and so on.

The hard truths about Jews remain: Jews  are always adversarial to the people and culture in which they live. In particular, Jews have a long history of hatred toward the people and culture of the West—the TOO theme of Jews as a hostile elite.

Not long ago I read an interesting book entitled The Boys from Delores. Delores was the elite Jesuit prep school Fidel Castro attended. The author tracked down Castro’s classmates all over the world and interviewed them about their life at the school, their memories of Fidel and what had happened to them personally as a result of the Communist revolution.

As you can imagine virtually every single one of Castro’s high school classmates hated his guts. They now lived in exile. Many of them fought in the Bay of Pigs.

Near the end of the book, however, the author managed to interview the one graduate of this elite, upper class Roman Catholic school whose life took a very different path.

This one was a relatively high official in Castro’s government and a member of the Communist Party.

The author asked him how it was that he and his family had supported Castro and the Communists and all the other boys and their families had opposed them.

The graduate explained it very calmly and simply.

Those other boys in the school were White, Christian, Roman Catholic aristocrats. His family, in contrast, were Jews who had been compelled to pretend to be Roman Catholics for centuries and to superficially go along.

But inwardly he always hated the other students because they were White, Christian, Roman Catholic aristocrats and desired their destruction. Communism was the means to accomplish this so he and his family welcomed the Revolution and the triumph of Communism.

This book was published by a major publisher and got a very good review in the New York Times.

Somehow, neither the author nor his editor nor the publisher nor the reviewer caught the fact that this interview should not have appeared.

I think the attitude of the hate-nurturing, secretive, duplicitous, murderous schoolboy in the Delores School in Cuba mirrors the attitudes of “our good Southern Jews.”


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