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December 02, 1988 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-12-02

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

hood known as Merionette Manor, on Chi-
cago's Far South Side — a white, middle-
class neighborhood of bungalow tract
homes -about 40 percent Catholic, 40 per-
cent Jewish, and 20 percent Protestant.
They could walk to their temple and to the
Jewish Community Center. They had lived
there for seven years. The year before the
King march, the first black family had
moved in to Merionette Manor. The Eb-
steins had watched with distaste as an all-
white neighborhood bordering theirs had
greeted the attempt of blacks to move in
with stonings, threats, and fire bombings.
The Ebsteins were determined their neigh-
borhood was going to be a model for
integration.
It was wretchedly hot that July 10. The
temperature soared to 98 degrees. King's
organizers had hoped for 100,000 mar-
chers; only 30,000 turned out. As the
march moved slowly down State Street,
Bernie and Roz carried a banner that
declared "American Jewish Congress."
They filed into Soldier Field and heard
King speak demanding an end to police
brutality, an end to job discrimination, and
an end to the real estate discrimination
practices that made Chicago the most
residentially segregated city north of the
Mason-Dixon line.

Art By Barbara Kiwak

religious imperative. Her favorite part of
the Passover Seder, the ceremony that
commemorates the liberation of the Jews
from Egypt, came about halfway through
'the reading of the Haggadah when
everyone gathered around the table
declared, "In every generation, each Jew
must look upon himsef as though he, per-
sonally, was among those who went forth
from Eypt." That made it clear to Roz
where her loyalties lay, and she was the
kind of person who fought for what she
believed in.
In the summer of 1966 — at a time when
many liberal Jews were beginning to
become disenchanted with the civil rights
movement — the Ebsteins were putting on
their walking shoes and getting ready to
march in downtown Chicago with Martin
Luther King. King had arrived in Chicago
in January, determined to bring the civil
rights movement north. He moved into a
slum apartment in the Lawndale ghetto to
symbolize his concern for poor blacks and
to focus his demands on better housing,
better jobs, and better education. Mayor

Richard Daley deftly deflected King's at-
tempts to call the city to account.
On June 6, James Meredith was shot
and wounded as he tried to walk across
Mississippi. King flew down South to join
a march led by Stokely Carmichael, the
newly elected chairman of SNCC, and
others to protest the shooting. It was dur-
ing this march that Carmichael turned to
a crowd in Greenwood, Mississippi, raised
a clenched fist, and shouted: "The only way
we gonna stop them white men from whup-
pin' us is to take over. We been saying
freedom for six years and we ain't got
nothin. What we gonna start saying now
is Black Power!" King tried to get Car-
michael to stop using those words, but the
phrase caught on like a grass fire. King's
Chicago march, called for Sunday, July 10
— "Freedom Sunday!" — was an attempt
to reinvigorate the Chicago campaign and
regain control of a civil rights movement
that was starting to slip from King's
influence.
The Ebsteins lived in a small wood-and-
brick duplex house in a small neighbor-

nlike the South, which segre-
gated blacks by law, Chicago
segregated them by a combi-
nation of private artifice,
political maneuvering, and vio-
lence. Reinforcing these bureaucratic and
financial barriers to open housing was
steady violence that echoed like a
drumbeat through Chicago's tight-knit
ethnic neighborhoods whenever blacks had
the audacity to move in. Throughout the
late 1950s, vigilantes threatened and
firebombed a small group of black families
living in the Trumbull Park Homes, a
public housing development that had
become "accidentally" integrated when a
light-skinned black family moved in.
Hemmed in by violence and homeowners
who refused to sell to them, blacks followed
the path of least resistance. That path was
Chicago's Jewish neighborhoods.
Chicago's Jews did not firebomb houses
or chase blacks down the street when they
moved into "their" previously all-white
neighborhood. Nor did Jews in Chicago
have the clout at City Hall to turn streets
around or guarantee that public housing
would not be put in their neighborhood.
When blacks moved into Jewish areas,
the Jews simply moved out. One writer
coined a term for the Jewish response:
broygez. "In our distaste for violence we
differ hardly at all from our grandparents,"
wrote Milton Himmelfarb in Commentary
in 1966. "When they were displeased they
did not hit, they acted broygez [Yiddish:
`offended' or 'sulky]: they did not speak to
the person who had offended them, they

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

25

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