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Old 12-23-2010, 09:13 PM
mittu mittu is offline
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Treatment of the Jews in 1950s America

In this article about Julian Assange it says:

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In an interview with The Times yesterday, Mr Assange compared the "persecution" of WikiLeaks to that endured by Jews in the US in the 1950s.
What is he referring to here? I had always thought that Jews fleeing persecution or looking for fresh pastures to settle in after WWII were well welcomed. What persecution existed, was it just against Jews who relocated to America or did it extend to those who been in the USA for generations?
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Old 12-23-2010, 09:21 PM
Shmendrik Shmendrik is offline
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He's conflating Jews with leftists and Communists.
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Old 12-23-2010, 09:21 PM
OldGuy OldGuy is offline
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I'm not sure I'd call it persecution, but there was certainly discrimination against Jews in the 50s. For example many colleges had numerus clausus policies. This was a policy that didn't exclude Jews, but limited the number that were admitted. It was also applied in some cases to Catholics, women, blacks (though they were often simply excluded entirely).

This started long before the 50s of course -- particularly in the 30s. An extreme example is Cornell's medical school which was about 40% Jewish in 1920 and 4% in 1940.
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Old 12-23-2010, 09:51 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldGuy View Post
I'm not sure I'd call it persecution, but there was certainly discrimination against Jews in the 50s. For example many colleges had numerus clausus policies. This was a policy that didn't exclude Jews, but limited the number that were admitted. It was also applied in some cases to Catholics, women, blacks (though they were often simply excluded entirely)...
Yep, in the '50s most colleges required a photograph and a character reference from your clergyman as part of the application. Most colleges still take gender into account in admissions (to keep the sex ratio close as close to 50/50 as possible).
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Old 12-23-2010, 10:21 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shmendrik View Post
He's conflating Jews with leftists and Communists.
Yeah, I agree, although anti-Semitism was all too common in postwar America: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentleman%27s_Agreement
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Old 12-23-2010, 10:34 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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It was also there in prewar America.

But the discrimination against Jews was far less onerous than that against Blacks (or the German discrimination against Jews, of course). There were no laws requiring it, and it boiled down to quotas in certain schools and restrictions in membership in certain clubs. Though it did happen from time to time in public accommodations it was nowhere as widespread as it was against Blacks. It was also far less obvious: my grandfather used to tell the story of a restaurant the refused to serve him, in that they just never sent a waiter to his table. No one told him to go, though. (Ironically, the restaurant name was the same as our family name except for an extra letter).

My uncle told the story of his trying to get into a local country club. He was an avid golfer and a friend told him to join. He knew the club was restricted (i.e., no Jews), but tried anyway. A year later, he asked the friend about it. "Going great," he said. "You're 12th on the waiting list." After another year, my uncle asked again. "Getting there," the friend said. "You're 15th on the waiting list."

Of course, this was in the 1990s, so I suppose it doesn't count.* Still, it's pretty much the way things were in the 50s.

*As a private club, equal opportunity laws did not apply.
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Old 12-23-2010, 11:13 PM
UDS UDS is offline
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Social anti-Semitism was widespread in the US before the Second World War. Many people were reluctant to associate with Jews, and many business were reluctant to deal with them, either because the owners/managers shared in this prejudice or because they perceived that their wider clientele did, and they sought to create the judenrein environment which their clientele valued.

This didn’t come to a shuddering halt in 1945. Americans were horrified at what they learned then but, precisely because the reality of antisemitism was so horrifying many were reluctant to accept that their own social attitudes towards Jews were part of a continuum , further along which lay the Holocaust. Deeply felt attitudes take a long time to change (and the more irrational they are the longer the change takes). So I think yes, there was a good deal of antisemitism in the US in the 1950s.

I question the aptness of Assange’s comparison. But I think what he is getting at is the slew of businesses reluctant to have dealings or connections of any kind with Wikileaks, which he implies is comparable to, say, hotels turning away guests perceived to be Jewish even though they had rooms available, a practice which I think was common in the past. But I think he’d have done better to talk about the 1930s rather than the 1950s. And, even then, I think the comparison is stretched.

Last edited by UDS; 12-23-2010 at 11:14 PM..
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Old 12-24-2010, 11:08 AM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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I grew up in the 50s, and we were one of the few Jewish families in our community. There was definitely anti-semitism in school, from other kids and even a few teachers, and out of school as well. Some parents even forbade their kids to play with us.
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Old 12-24-2010, 11:18 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Quote:
I had always thought that Jews fleeing persecution or looking for fresh pastures to settle in after WWII were well welcomed. What persecution existed, was it just against Jews who relocated to America or did it extend to those who been in the USA for generations?
Oh, there was prejudice and persecution of Jews in the US. It's just that there was MORE persecution in other countries. My maternal grandfather was violently anti-Semetic, but he'd admit that "some of those damned (deleted) are pretty smart, and helped this country, but they owe it to America for taking them in." So Jews were better tolerated, on the whole, in the US than in most other countries. However, they were excluded from many associations and activities, either by written or unwritten rules.
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Old 12-24-2010, 12:39 PM
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I believe the OP's question was pretty well answered - there was little active persecution here, but the anti-semitism was quite wide spread and though it was subtle, its effects are still felt. There are still industries and corporations in which it is still rare to find a Jew in a highly placed position. To the point that the prejudice was subtle, I'd cite the famous case that opens Gordon Allport's 1954 book, The Nature of Prejudice. Briefly, a social scientist wrote letters to approximately 100 different resorts that were advertising in two papers. He wrote two identical letters to each of the resorts, mailed them at the same time, asked for reservations for the same dates. One, he signed Mr. Greenberg. The other, Mr. Lockwood.
To Mr. Greeberg:
52% of the resorts replied
36% offered him accomodations
To Mr. Lockwood:
95% of the resorts replied
93% offered him accomodations

Note: the papers were Toronto papers. But still...

Is it over? Not likely.
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Old 12-24-2010, 12:54 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Interesting thread. I wonder if discrimination was the main reason why the "borsch belt" hotel resorts of upstate NY (such as portrayed in the movie "Dirty Dancing") existed? Or did American Jews feel more comfortable vacationing among their own?
Incidentally, do any of these hotels survive today?
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Old 12-24-2010, 12:58 PM
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Indeed that's why Jews are predominant in many parts of the country and in many industries. Those were the places that didn't discriminate against them. Those folks who rail against "all the Jews in Hollywood," for example, neglect to acknowledge that people only go where they can. Hollywood was open to everyone, and people who had been discriminated against in one industry found homes in another.
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Old 12-24-2010, 01:40 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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I grew up in the 40s and, while there was little overt discrimination, there was in fact plenty, most subtle. But sometimes not. My father changed his name in the 30s to try to help him get a job. It didn't, BTW. He finally did get a job, working for my mother's uncle who owned a dental instrument factory. But when we moved to the suburbs in 1955 (to escape the black invasion of our neighborhood, incidentally) there was one suburb of Philly, Yeadon to be exact, all of whose deeds had clauses that made it illegal (enforced by the courts until the 60s) to sell to a Jew (surely also to blacks, maybe even Catholics, I don't know) and illegal to sell without a similar covenant in the new deed. As I said, these "restrictive covenants" were enforced by the courts. Atlantic City had a number of "Jewish hotels", while in nearby Ocean City, no one would rent to a Jew. A girl I dated a couple times finished very high in her class and applied to Penn Med. When she was refused she told me that she had two strikes against her (being a Jew and a woman). She went to Women's Med (now called Medical College of Pennsylvania and presumably now coed) and finished first in her class the first year. After that I lost track of her. As far as country clubs, there were basically Jewish and non-Jewish ones and never the twain did meet. The same was true of fraternities.

Going back a bit further, there was a Supreme Court Justice who would not stay in the same room with Brandeis or Frankfurter (presumably except for when the court was in session).

Nonetheless, Assange's assertion seems horribly overwrought.
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Old 12-24-2010, 01:53 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
Interesting thread. I wonder if discrimination was the main reason why the "borsch belt" hotel resorts of upstate NY (such as portrayed in the movie "Dirty Dancing") existed? Or did American Jews feel more comfortable vacationing among their own?
Probably a combination.
Quote:
Incidentally, do any of these hotels survive today?
A few do (Kutsher's), but most have gone out of business. They were just too big to survive when people were able to travel further.
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Old 12-24-2010, 02:03 PM
qazwart qazwart is offline
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One of the more interesting devices used to discriminate against Jews was the question about your mother's maiden name. A Jew could change his name from Schwartz to Smith, but he couldn't change the fact his mother's maiden name was Mandlebaum.

When I was growing up in Texas, many people used the phrase "Jewed him down" when they negotiated a good price, and they didn't even realize that it might be anti-Semitic.

I always imagine somewhere someone saying "He initially offered to buy it for $400, but I goyed him up to $700."
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Old 12-24-2010, 02:42 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Not the '50s, but in the '20s when the area I now live in was developed, a restrictive covenant was attached, in perpetuity, to all property deeds, that prohibited ownership by "non-Caucasians". I think the developer was afraid of both Jews and blacks.

This restriction has no relevance today, and was probably rendered unenforceable by the Civil Rights Acts in the '60s. I know of no instance where it was invoked. But I know at least one Jewish family who bought property before 1960, probably realizing the trend. They still own it.

The deed also prohibited the keeping of cattle, pigs and chickens in the residential neighborhood. But what was revealing the most were the penalties for violating the various prohibitions.

Presumably, if you kept a chicken or pig in the garage, the sheriff would just write you a ticket; there wasn't anything specific described as to punishment.

But, spelled out very clearly, was the punishment for letting a non-Caucasian sleep overnight on the couch: you would lose your property immediately "without any recourse to the courts."

Shows what their priorities were in the 1930s and later.
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Old 12-24-2010, 07:38 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hari Seldon View Post
...Going back a bit further, there was a Supreme Court Justice who would not stay in the same room with Brandeis or Frankfurter (presumably except for when the court was in session)....
That was Justice James McReynolds, who was as thoroughgoing an asshole as ever sat on the Supreme Court: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_M..._and_conflicts

Justice William Rehnquist, nominated by President Reagan to become Chief Justice in 1986, was embarrassed when it turned out that he had restrictive covenants in the deeds of several of the houses he'd bought over the years: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-d...-c_b_6844.html
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Old 12-24-2010, 08:40 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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For the sake of historical completeness I think this thread needs to include a reference to Groucho Marx's famous quip about trying to join a club that was closed to Jews:

Quote:
When one club offered to waive its no-Jews rule for Groucho, provided he abstained from using the swimming pool, he remarked, "My daughter's only half Jewish, can she wade in up to her knees?") Groucho once noted: "As you may recall, the Hillcrest is the only country club in all of Greater Los Angeles that will accept Talmudic scholars such as myself as members."
Groucho may have made up the story to tell a joke, of course, but the joke doesn't work unless it's well known and accepted that a lot of clubs won't accept Jews. Groucho had two daughters: Miriam was born in 1927 and Melinda was born in 1946.

There is also an oft-repeated story that Bess Truman (first lady of the United States from 1945-1953) wouldn't allow Jews into her and the president's home after they left office. Last I knew, that story was pretty well supported, but I'm no presidential historian.
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Old 12-24-2010, 09:09 PM
MPB in Salt Lake MPB in Salt Lake is offline
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I heard the story about Bess Truman as well, but apparently Harry Truman himself had no problem associating with Jewish friends or colleagues.

Bess Truman's family (in particular her mother) were supposedly a bunch of snooty hicks, thinking that they were better than everyone else, even though they were quite poor and occasionally nearly destitute at certain points in time.....
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Old 12-24-2010, 10:08 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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Truman's friendship with Eddie Jacobson was legendary, and was by some accounts crucial to his eventual diplomatic recognition of Israel - scroll down here: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/hstpaper/jacobson.htm

Woody Allen's early standup routine about shooting a moose depends, for its final punchline, on the audience's familiarity with clubs that kept out Jews: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmnLRVWgnXU
SPOILER:
The version that I first heard has him saying at the end (a little more funny, I thought), "But the joke's on them, because it's restricted!"
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Old 12-24-2010, 11:22 PM
Una Persson Una Persson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
Not the '50s, but in the '20s when the area I now live in was developed, a restrictive covenant was attached, in perpetuity, to all property deeds, that prohibited ownership by "non-Caucasians". I think the developer was afraid of both Jews and blacks.

This restriction has no relevance today, and was probably rendered unenforceable by the Civil Rights Acts in the '60s. I know of no instance where it was invoked. But I know at least one Jewish family who bought property before 1960, probably realizing the trend. They still own it.

The deed also prohibited the keeping of cattle, pigs and chickens in the residential neighborhood. But what was revealing the most were the penalties for violating the various prohibitions.

Presumably, if you kept a chicken or pig in the garage, the sheriff would just write you a ticket; there wasn't anything specific described as to punishment.

But, spelled out very clearly, was the punishment for letting a non-Caucasian sleep overnight on the couch: you would lose your property immediately "without any recourse to the courts."

Shows what their priorities were in the 1930s and later.
I've posted before on this: a large number of home owner's associations in my area here had anti-Jewish covenants in their bylaws. There have been a couple of reports in the local media about how these hateful things are still attached to the homes of all these happy, shiny WASP Americans and the HOAs are in no hurry whatsoever to repeal or remove the covenants. An interview with HOA officers in one division on TV, with the faces blacked out, had them saying on camera that they didn't want to bring the issue to a vote, because they were afraid too many anti-Semites would vote to keep the (unenforceable) restrictions in place!
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Old 12-25-2010, 02:46 AM
FriarTed FriarTed is offline
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I forget if this happened in the 1930s or 40s, but apparently the factory my Grandmom worked at was laying people off. The owner asked my Grandmom if she'd been to the local synagogue, if she knew the rabbi & various Jewish families. Grandmom had & told him so. So the boss goes off & later on annonced the layoffs.

My Grandmom kept her job.

When she thought about it, she realized it could have been because the owner was philo-Semitic & thought she was Jewish.

The bunch of us are 1850s-immigrant Germans. *L*
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Old 12-25-2010, 05:38 AM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Originally Posted by Una Persson View Post
I've posted before on this: a large number of home owner's associations in my area here had anti-Jewish covenants in their bylaws. There have been a couple of reports in the local media about how these hateful things are still attached to the homes of all these happy, shiny WASP Americans and the HOAs are in no hurry whatsoever to repeal or remove the covenants. An interview with HOA officers in one division on TV, with the faces blacked out, had them saying on camera that they didn't want to bring the issue to a vote, because they were afraid too many anti-Semites would vote to keep the (unenforceable) restrictions in place!
It's a touchy subject all around.

Since I am the go-to guy for neighborhood matters, people sometimes call me about this; prospective homeowners are sometimes to learn what will be on their deed, and liberal types that are ashamed to find what is already on there.

One person wanted to take the whole matter to the courts and get all the covenants removed just on principle. IANAL, but I imagine that could be done, at considerable expense (and who would pay for that?), but this would not be without repercussions. It's like airing your worst dirty laundry, even if your generation didn't dirty it up. I'm sure it would make the front page of the local paper. It's hard to see what good would come of it.

And as a journalist and amateur historian, I really want to document this aspect of local history. But when I wrote a 120 page history book for our town recently, I thought it wise to leave this item out, since I was under contract with the town government and they most certainly did not want to see this situation soiling their beautiful Sesquicentennial picture book.

A short family anecdote...My grandmother claimed to have the first (and for a while, only) integrated cast in St. Louis community theater starting in the 1930s. When she bought some property in what is now my neighborhood in 1937, she refused to sign the part of the deed with the racial restrictions.

Her attorney said, "It doesn't matter if you sign it or not, it will still be the law."

But times change. Now, new buyers are told, "It doesn't matter if you sign it or not, it has no legal merit at all."
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