Jewish Women in Civil Rights - Miriam Cohen Glickman
Miriam Cohen was born in Indiana in 1942, the eldest daughter in a family of eight. Her father has edited The National Jewish Post and Opinion for over fifty years. She grew up in an observant home with a strong Jewish identity. While in high school, she participated in modest protests against the treatment of black students there. In the summer of 1961, after her sophomore year at Brandeis University, she toured the South, visiting several civil rights projects with the help of her father's journalist colleagues. By the end of her time at Brandeis, she knew that she wanted to be a civil rights worker and applied to Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
In the summer of 1963, she worked in the Albany, Georgia movement, the first attempt to attack all forms of racial domination in one location and to involve large numbers of community people in nonviolent direct action. She spent a week in jail on a hunger strike. Later that year, she returned to Meridian, Mississippi, to work with the "mock vote" project, directed by Matteo Suarez. Early in 1964, she spent six months working in Washington, DC conducting research for SNCC. She worked in Columbus, Mississippi from the end of Freedom Summer until February 1965. When controversies over white SNCC workers came to a head, she moved to New York's Lower East Side near a group of ex-SNCC workers. After a brief stint working for a union, she went to graduate school at Bank Street College of Education and began a long teaching career. Glickman and her husband have raised two children. She now lives with her family in California and is involved in local political issues.
In Meridian, in 1963, Miriam Cohen Glickman discovered that "the local Black community assumed I was Black because there was no concept that a white girl would be down there . They used the term bright for light-skinned." She also remembers that "the local people considered the Jewish people not to be white if the Jewish people treated them decently."
Glickman connected with and reflected deeply on her experience with southern Black religious practice. She wrote in the December 17, 1963, issue of Brandeis University's student newspaper, The Justice:
The summer in Albany was the first meaningful religious experience in my life. I must have prayed hours each day-for what else were my thoughts about my friends in jail but prayer? Too, there were the mass meetings when an old woman cried out in hysterical seizure (in good Baptist tradition), "Jesus, Jesus, we need you Jesus! Come to Albany, Jesus! Have mercy, Jesus!" Again and again she intoned her plea, to Jesus- the symbol of her suffering. A part of me was with her, for I too cried out to something outside myself, my own suffering (in jail) and my reactions to the suffering of others was more than I could bear within. The unrehearsed cry of those who have suffered too much had meaning for me that prayers of rote recitation never had.
Miriam Cohen, "Integration in the Deep South: Death Goes On," The Justice, December 17, 1963, 4-6.