Anti-Semitism in America
With what just happened in Pittsburgh it is easy to forget what things were like in the 1930s in America. I remember because I was growing up then. We used to listen to Father Coughlin on the radio. He said things like this:
‘Must the entire world go to war for 600,000 Jews in Germany who are neither American, nor French, nor English citizens, but citizens of Germany?’
‘If Jews persist in supporting communism directly or indirectly, that will be regrettable. By their failure to use the press, the radio and the banking house, where they stand so prominently, to fight communism as vigorously as they do Nazism, the Jews invite the charge of being supporters of communism.’
‘From European entanglements, from Nazism, communism and their future wars, America must stand aloof. Keep America safe for Americans and the Stars and Stripes the defender of God.’
‘When we get through with the Jews in America, they'll think the treatment they received in Germany was nothing.’
What I did not know until much later was the anti-Semitism that prevailed at a university like Harvard. They had an admissions quota for Jews and because of the anti-Semitism of George Birkhoff, the chairman, there were no Jewish professorial appointments in the mathematics department. I.I. Rabi told me that he tried to get a job with a chemical company. I asked if they were anti-Semitic. Rabi said he did not know if they were anti-Semitic but that they did not take Jews there.
My father was a Reform rabbi in Rochester, New York. We wanted to go to the Finger Lakes for a little trip. When we got to the hotel where he had reservations my father went in first. He always explained that he was a rabbi and he was told that the hotel did not take Jews. He was ashen and we went back to Rochester. My own experience with anti-Semitism has been limited. I remember courting a girl whose grandmother told her not to marry me because she might have Jewish babies.
We have made progress but the virus is always present.