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December 02, 1988 - Image 27

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

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seen anything like it," King said. "I've been
in many demonstrations all across the
South, but I can say that I have never seen
— even in Mississippi and Alabama —
mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I've
seen in Chicago."


ollowing the Marquette Park
march, civil rights groups an-
nounced other marches in all-white
neighborhoods. Bernie decided to
join a march planned for the
Bogan neighborhood, another white ethnic
enclave on Chicago's Southwest Side, and
another march on the East Side, adjacent
to Merionette Manor.
For the East Side march, the marchers
assembled in a park where Bernie joined
a circle including Andrew Young and Jesse
Jackson playing drop-the-handkerchief,
and chasing each other around to defuse
the tension. Then they assembled to
march, and as they entered the Bogan
neighborhood, Bernie stiffened. As in Mar-
quette Park, an angry mob surrounded the
marchers, straining against the solid
wedges of police that surrounded the
demonstrators. Some of the mob spit on
the marchers. Then they turned on the
whites like Bernie, and Bernie became
"Nigger lover!"
"Dirty Jew!"
"Nigger lover!"
The jeers against Jews on the East Side
confirmed for Bernie that he was dealing
with people who hated all outsiders. By
marching for blacks, Bernie knew, he was
marching against intolerance. In the school
in Merionette Manor, the black girls had
begun to frighten David. They were bigger
and more aggressive than the boys. David
had learned to hold his own with the boys.
But these girls were something else. They
scared him.
Steven, a year behind David, was feeling
much the same way. These blacks his
parents had talked about were not his
natural allies. They were very different.
Their values and their standards were
The Ebsteins had fought for good
schools, but Steven's fifth-grade teacher
was the worst in the school. She was so
had, that the family joked about her at
home. The telephone calls started soon
after the first black family moved in. A
man identifying himself as a real estate
agent would say, "I've just sold several
houses in your neighborhood and I wonder
if I could help you sell yours." Roz always
hung up on the callers. They were panic
buyers, she knew, trying to get the white
families to sell their homes at distress
prices, triggering a stampede from the
Ever since moving to Merionette Manor
the Ebsteins had been members of Rodfei
Sholom, a conservative synagogue a few
blocks from their house with a congrega-

tion of 500 families and a thriving after-
school Hebrew school. Bernie had become
a vice president of the temple. When the
panic calls began he went to the temple
and drew up an oversized testimonial
parchment that declared, "We the under-
signed are determined to stay." He went
door to door with it along the streets of
Merionette Manor, trying to get other
members of the temple to sign. Some
signed the declaration, but others refused.

oz and Bernie were both becom-
ing struck by the anger with
which some of their friends now
talked about blacks. Civil rights,
which was so much a part of the
Ebsteins' definition of what it meant to be
Jewish and to be liberal, no longer meant
the same thing to some of their friends.
Whenever his friends would warn him
that it was time to move out, Bernie would
reassure himself with a conversation he
had heard in a friend's living room. There,
a white man had told a black neighbor of
the Ebsteins, Marched Scott, that he was
worried about what would happen to the
neighborhood, the schools, as more blacks
moved in. Scott reassured him. "If those
things go down, you'll move to the
suburbs," Scott said. "And I'll be right
behind you. I don't want that either."
Fifth grade was a wasted year for Ste-
ven; sixth grade promised to be better. The
teacher was good, one of the best in the
school. David had been in her class the
year before and liked her. Then, four weeks
into the school year, the teacher asked Roz
to come to school for a meeting.
"Take Steven out of this school," she
said. "There is nothing I can do for him
here. It kills me to say this, but there is no
one for him to interact with."
The Ebsteins had been considering put-
ting Steven in private school; now they did.
They enrolled him in Akiba, a Jewish day
school a half-hour's drive away.
But David remained. The bulk of his
friends were still in his class, but he was
angry when Steven was transferred. He
was scared at school, too, yet his brother
was being taken out. No one understood
what he was going through. He felt more
and more isolated.
Bernie had always enjoyed politics. In
1964 he had canvassed door-to-door for
Lyndon Johnson, believing it was critical
to keep Barry Goldwater out of the White
House. He and Roz had also worked for the
election of a local Congressman, Abner
Mikva, and for some reform city aldermen.
But the battle for civil rights that was
consuming the Ebsteins had, by 1968,
ceased consuming the rest of the country.
Vietnam had replaced civil rights as the
issue of conscience for American liberals.
Between 1960 and 1965, polls had con-
sistently shown that civil rights ranked at
the top or among the top issues that peo-
ple cared about. The top issue now was the


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