Comments by Rabbi Milton Grafman about national Jewish leadership and the position of southern Jews
Milton Grafman was born in Washington, D.C., but spent most of his career as the rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, AL. Like many southern rabbis, Milton Grafman found himself caught between the realities of southern Jewish life and civil rights activists. He worked towards integration, but was opposed to disruptive protests that could lead to violence and undermine local, more moderate efforts. In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, Grafman said the following in an interview with a rabbinic student at Hebrew Union College, who was working on a paper entitled “The Southern Rabbi and Civil Rights”:
“The Jewish leadership cannot travel faster than the rest of the population…we have to live with these people day-in and day-out. A freedom rider comes down, and a marcher, and a demonstrator… and I don’t know what he accomplishes, very frankly, except he goes back and he’s a hero—and he doesn’t have to live with these people. But we do, and our people have got to live with them…the only way we can be effective is to work with the Christians who are willing to be active in any given program—and certainly in the field of civil rights.”
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Comments by Rabbi Milton Grafman about national Jewish leadership and the position of southern Jews." (Viewed on April 30, 2017) <https://jwa.org/media/comments-by-rabbi-milton-grafman-about-national-jewish-leadership-and-position-of-southern-jew>.