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July 24, 1987 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-07-24

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Editor Schappes: His Triumph Over Witch-Hunters


Editor Emeritus

Testimonials are a dime a dozen on
the agenda of any community, local or
national. Many of them are fundraising
functions and are somewhat limited in
importance. When, therefore, such an
occasion is devoted to a cause and
honors a person of immense
achievements, it becomes an event with
unusual aspects.
Perhaps the knowledge of the
person presently under consideration is
not as universal as the record merits.
This is due to the dramatic factors
which make the personality under
consideration an American historic
chapter. He is not to be ignored.
Morris U. Schappes was honored a
few weeks ago with a dinner marking
his 80th birthday. It was held at Ferris
Booth Hall of Columbia University. It
marked the 29th dinner of Jewish
Currents magazine of which Dr.
Schappes has served as editor since its
Schappes was founding editor in
1946 of Jewish Life magazine. The
name of the monthly magazine was
changed to Jewish Currents in 1958
when Schappes became its full-time
It is important to note that the
dinner under consideration was
sponsored by the Association for

Promotion of Jewish Secularism.
Jewish Currents is a leader in Jewish
secular promotions and its record in
that field is as worthy of study as the
editor whose dramatic life story is now
under review.
Because the Schappes story has
received very little attention in the
larger sphere of Jewish life, it is
necessary to state that many leading
American Jews have learned to honor
and respect the honoree. The list of
sponsors of the Schappes dinner
included Dr. Jacob R. Marcus, Theodore
Bikel, Dr. Leonard Fein, Betty Friedan,
Dr. Robert Gordis, Prof. Nora Levin,
Jessie Lurie, Senator Daniel P.
Moynihan, Dr. Trude Weiss Rosmarin,
and academicians of note.
Morris Schappes represents a
chapter of great importance in the mid-
century battle for civil and human
rights and the cause of free speech and
the numerous other freedoms related to
the basic American ideals. He was a
staff member of the City College of New
York from 1928 to 1941. In the latter
year, a witchhunt was initiated by the
New York State Legislature Rapp-
Coudert Committee.
Schappes was one of 41 City College
professors who were were interrogated.
Some refused to testify. Schappes would
not be an informer. With his associates
in City College, he was fired, placed on
trial, and served a 13-month jail

the City University of New York, Oct.
26, 1981, Schappes wrote:

Morris U. Schappes

It took 40 years for City College to
recognize and admit the injustice. There
was an official apology and restoration
of his just rights.
The statement then issued by
Schappes is of great significance. That
statement surely retains not only
historic merit in relation to that tragic
case, but also represents the merits of
a memorial document on civil liberties.
In his letter to the Board of Trustees of

I thank you for your
courtesy in hearing my
comment, on behalf of the
victims of the Rapp-Coudert
Committee and of the then
Board of Higher Education, on
the resolution you have just
In the span of a single life, 40
years is a long time to wait for
justice to be done, or rather for
injustice to be admitted. So long
that for about one-third of our
some 40 victims your notable
action comes as a posthumous
redress, nevertheless fully
valued by surviving members of
their families. Your action, no
matter how late, vindicates our
faith in the democratic process.
For us it is almost a matter of
poignancy to find that, 40 years
later, an entirely new generation
of administrators, faculty and
staff at the City College,
learning for the first time that a
wrong had been done to former
colleagues whom they did not
know personally, decided that it
was their duty to attempt now to
right that old wrong. It was Dr.
Alice Chandler, then Acting-
President of the City College,

Continued on Page 40

Hancock Synagogue Is 75: A Landmark In History

Michigan has an overwhelming
number of Jewish landmarks. From the
very birth of the state there were
pioneers in industrial projects, in farm-
ing, in mining.
The Copper Country had its Jewish
functionaries. The numerous Jewish
communities were not large numerical-
ly but they were active — religiously,
socially and politically. It is believed
that at one time the mayors of at least
a dozen Michigan cities, including the
Sault, were Jews. Many state and local
commissions included Jews.
The Copper Country was especial-
ly notable for Jewish participants in
many spheres. To this day the Cohodas
family has a place of leadership.
Nonagenarian Sam Cohodas is the
"Mister Sam" of the Upper Peninsula.
His nephew Willard Cohodas shares the
elder's responsibilities. The latter has
an important place in the state's

A highly commendable achieve-
ment for which Willard Cohodas earns
recognition is the encouragement and
support he has given to the inaugura-
tion of Holocaust studies at Northern
Michigan University in Marquette.
Four other Michigan universities have
since last year's commencement of
these studies introduced similar
courses. This is a dedication to a serious
need that is widely acclaimed in the
state's academic ranks.
A notable event now on the
Michigan calendar is inspiring an in-


FRIDAY, JULY 24, 1987

Temple Jacob

creased dedication to the retention of
historic records and to enriching the
Michigan Jewish archives. The
synagogue in Hancock, Mich., has just
reached its 75th year and reminiscing
assumes significance for the historic
records. This is where community ac-
tivist Willard Cohodas is both historian
and archivist. While Hancock is 560
miles from Detroit, it gains spiritual
nearness in the religious fellowship it
reaches out to the Jewish communities
throughout the state.
Temple Jacob commenced a season
of 75th anniversary celebrations, at its
original structure on M26, just to the
right of the Portage Lift Bridge, with a

display of photographs and records
detailing activities of the pioneers in
the era of the copper boom. The celebra-
tion continued with a concert in the
historic building by the Maxwell Street
Klezmer Band from Chicago on July 13.
Another dinner is scheduled for Aug. 9
for contributors to the Temple Jacob
Preservation Fund. Another anniver-
sary event, on Sept. 5, will feature the
Copper Country Folk Dancers.
On Sept. 26, an open forum on con-
temporary Judaism and a community
Havdalah service will culminate the
celebration activities.
The participation of non-Jewish
friends adds significance to the
It was on Sept. 1, 1912 that the
brick and sandstone building with
stained glass windows topped with a
dome displaying the Magen David came
into being as Temple Jacob. A.J. Ver-
ville, a Jewish contractor, was the
synagogue's builder.
Jacob Gartner and Herman Joffe
were cofounders of the temple which
was named in honor of Gartner, founder
of Gartner's Department Store. The
honoree died before the completion of
the building.
At the time of Temple Jacob's foun-
ding it had 100 member families, a full-
time rabbi and a religious school for the
children. Now there still are 45 member
families, not all local residents, and a
student visiting rabbi conducts Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur services.

Sam Cohodas

Willard Cohodas pursues a deep in-
terest that makes him the Upper Penin-
sula historian. He has collected legen-
dary data and he states: "There is a
story that Jacob Gartner, one of the
earliest settlers of Hancock, told some
of his friends that a loan he had made
to a friend was a sure loss, but if he ever
collected the money he would donate it
to the building of a temple. Miracle of
miracles, he collected the $15,000 and
the temple's building fund was
Continued on Page 40

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