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March 25, 1988 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-03-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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FRONTLINES

Political Mainstream For Jews
Part Of 'Soapy' Williams' Legacy

KIMBERLY LIFTON

Staff Writer

L

ong-time Democrat
Adelaide Hart loves to
talk about the late G.
Mennen "Soapy" Williams,
and his devotion to wipe out
discrimination against all
minority groups, including
Jews.
At 88, she doesn't move
about as easily as she did as
a member of the six-term
governor's kitchen cabinet.
But she remembers Williams
well, and speaks en-
thusiastically of her political
involvement with the man
remembered as one who
sincerely cared about the
average person.
"He left the doors wide
open," said Hart, who as co-
chairman of the state
Democratic Party during the
Williams era actively
recruited minorities for cer-
tain state positions.
"We went out and sought
minorities and brought them
in as precinct delegates," she
said. "We sat down with
phone directories, went into
homes; we looked for people to
represent the party."
Among the leaders
Williams brought into the
Michigan political arena are
Jewish Community Council
President Leon Cohan,
Federal District Judge Avern
Cohn, retired Circuit Court
Judge Victor Baum,
Michigan Supreme Court
Judge Charles Levin, the late
• Jewish Community Council
President and lawyer Larry
Gubow and retired Circuit
Court Judge Nathan Kauf-
man, appointed to the Com-
mon Pleas Court as Williams'
first Jewish judicial
appointment.
"He was the way a lot of
Jews got involved in politics,"
Cohan said. "The Jewish
community didn't know him
and he didn't know the
Jewish community. But his
progressive attitude was
recognized.
"Jews before Soapy were not
active in politics," Cohan
recalled. "The great bulk of
Jewish activity in state
government was motivated by
Soapy."
Observers said Williams'
genuine concern attracted the
Jewish leaders. He made ap-
pearances at bar mitzvas,
supported Israel in its early
years and became known as a
friend of Israel.
In fact, the Michigan
Region of the American Red
Magen David for Israel

established a scholarship
fund in memory of Williams,
which will link his name with
the lifesaving programs for
Israel's emergency medical
service. Williams served on
the MDA advisory board.
A plaque in his memory
will be mounted in the lobby
of the MDA National Blood
Service Center in Ramat
Gan, Israel.
In a letter to William's
widow, Nancy, MDA
Michigan region President
Dr. John Mames wrote:
"It was our delight to greet
you on numerous occasions at
our annual testimonial din-
ners and witness your active
participation in our festive af-
fairs, including dancing the
Israeli hora."
The Williams era began in
1948, during his first guber-
natorial campaign. He served
six, two-year terms from 1949
to 1960. Afterward, Williams
was appointed by President
John F. Kennedy as assistant
secretary of state for African
affairs. He held that position
for five years.
In 1968, Williams was ap-
pointed by President Lyndon
Johnson as U.S. ambassador
to the Philippines. He retired
in 1986 as Chief JuStice of the
Michigan Supreme Court.
Williams also served as an
attorney for the social securi-
ty system in Washington, as
an assistant attorney general
for Michigan, as executive
and special assistant to the
U.S. attorney general and as
lieutenent commander in the
U.S. Navy.
When Williams died at age
76 on Feb. 2, he left a legacy
of compassion and sincerety.
"He had a high standard of

excellence," said Cohan, who
served as deputy attorney
general during the Williams
administration. Williams
presided over massive in-
creases in state social pro-
grams, new civil rights laws
and road construction."I don't
think he had a bigoted bone
in his body!'
Now a private attorney,
Baum also helped recruit
Jews into government.
Williams appointed Baum in
1957 to fill a vacancy in the
Circuit Court — the beginn-
ing of Baum's involvement in
the Jewish community.
"Before Soapy, I was not
tremendously active in the
Jewish community," Baum
recalled.

As soon as he became judge,
Baum got involved in the
William's outreach program,
the recruiting arm to bring
minorities into politics.
"Soapy encouraged me to
become active," said Baum,
who met Williams while he
was an undergraduate at the
University of Michigan in the
late 1940s. Baum then work-
ed on William's first
campaign.

"There were lots of doors
open — timing might have
had something to do with it —
but so did Soapy," Baum said.
"Jews would not have come
into government so quickly
without Soapy?'
Added Nancy Williams,
"My husband felt strongly
that there should be represen-
tation of every segment of the
community in government.
He went out of his way to find
people who were highly
qualified, and some of them
were Jewish!"

Professor Says Israel
Rejected Arab Peace

ELIZABETH KAPLAN

Staff Writer

B

olstered by a briefcase
of books by Israeli
authors, and papers
covered with quotes from
Israeli scholars to back his
claims, Nabeel Abraham
stepped to the bima of the
Birmingham Temple.
The American-born pro-
fessor of anthropology at
Henry Ford Community Col-
lege, and the son of Palesti-
nians, was about to speak on
"A Palestinian Perspective,"
the third in a series on "The
Israeli-Palestinian Dilemma"
at the temple.

His voice remained steady,
confident and calm — even
through some of the more
troubled waters of the even-
ing. Many times during his
speech, Abraham claimed the
Arabs have sought constant-
ly to make peace with the
Israelis, who have in turn re-
jected such efforts. Describing
the Israelis as "drunk with
victory" since the 1967 War
and at one point comparing
their victorious posture with
that of the Nazis, Abraham
faced after his speech a bar-
rage of questions that were
frequently delivered in the
form of lectures.
Abraham began his discus-
sion Monday evening by ad-

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