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Jewish Women in Civil Rights - Barbara Jacobs Haber

Barbara Jacobs Haber
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Barbara Jacobs Haber in the 1960s. Courtesy of Barbara Haber.


Barbara Jacobs Haber was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1938. With affection, she describes her mother's family of eight as a "very poor, unassimilated, tight-knit, traditional Jewish family." Following her mother's untimely death, her family moved to Long Island. After a few rebellious incidents in high school, she became involved in peace and civil rights issues in college. She escaped the suburbs by attending Brandeis University on an art scholarship from 1956 to 1960.

After hearing Brandeis graduate Michael Walzer speak about the Greensboro sit-ins, she helped start an organization at the university called Emergency Public Integration Committee. She was active in Congress of Racial Equality and attended the founding convention of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, called by long-time civil rights activist Ella Baker. In June 1962, she moved to New York and began her long association with Al Haber, her future husband, and Students for a Democratic Society, attending the historic Port Huron conference. Barbara Haber was involved with the early women's liberation movement and moved to Berkeley where she practices psychotherapy with an emphasis on art therapy.


Like many white activist students across the country, Barbara Jacobs Haber began her civil rights activism through the sit-in movement. After dropping out of graduate school at Brandeis, she returned to Baltimore and lived with her parents, working as a social worker, and being involved in Baltimore Congress of Racial Equality. She recalls going to desegregated bars or restaurants in mixed groups:

I was a very macho sort of young woman-and in some ways-stupid. I just liked to go into these restaurants and bars and to be at the front, you know, in their face. Well, there were some good reasons for me not to be in the front and in their face, especially in a mixed group, because the idea of a white woman with Black men could be quite enraging and would endanger the Black men.

Barbara Haber, then a student at Brandeis, attended the founding convention of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Shaw University, April 15-17, 1960. It was "an absolutely mindblowing experience¬Ö being surrounded by people my own age, including Black students, and talking, talking, talking and singing, singing, singing." Barbara and her classmates were put up in Black homes where the "people treated us so wonderfully." She was thrilled by the courage of the elders and the students and "the whole enterprise. I just wanted to be a part of it."

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Women in Civil Rights - Barbara Jacobs Haber." (Viewed on April 20, 2014) <>.