web analytics
August 3, 2015 / 18 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

No Tears For Former Klansman Byrd


Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, died recently. The other day I saw a clip of him singing “Amazing Grace.” The sincerity in his voice was unmistakable. And why not? That hymn is his only saving grace. For Byrd found his faith in the Baptist church, which teaches that all sin can be washed away “in the blood of Christ.” It is divine grace and not good works that rights the wrongs perpetrated against one’s fellow human beings.

In the early 1940s Byrd brought together a number of his friends to form a chapter – a klavern – of the Ku Klux Klan. He solicited from each of them $10 for membership and $3 for a robe and hood. The grand dragon for the Mid-Atlantic States region came to Byrd’s community to officially open the chapter. Byrd was elected the so-called exalted cyclops of his Klavern.

Byrd said that at the time he viewed the Klan as merely a fraternal group of “understanding people” – doctors, lawyers clergy – who never preached violence or prejudice against blacks, Catholics or Jews.

He was partially correct. The KKK was composed of ignorant, racist and bigoted individuals. But, as Byrd stated, it included among its ranks many doctors, lawyers, clergy and judges. Its influence was felt everywhere.

The Klan’s control of nearly every aspect of Southern society was frightening. The Klan exchanged the lash of slavery for the hangman’s rope. Its burning crosses meant torture, death, and the destruction of black homes and churches. Advertisement

In 1948 Byrd wrote to the notoriously segregationist Theodore Bilbo, a Democratic senator from Mississippi, regarding President Truman’s desire to integrate the American military. Byrd said he would never fight in the armed forces “with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels.”

Yes, I do understand why “Amazing Grace” was Byrd’s favorite hymn.

Shortly after Byrd’s death I was visiting a relative at Skokie Hospital and noticed that CNN was broadcasting from the Senate chambers. There, lying in state, was the former exalted cyclops himself.

Frankly, I was sickened. The uneasy feeling worsened the very next day as I watched President Obama, of all people, eulogizing Byrd, stating that while Byrd began as a racist, he repented and became a supporter of the civil rights movement.

What really happened, of course, was that Byrd saw the handwriting on the wall. Ever the wily politician, he understood that if he didn’t get on the civil-rights bandwagon his career would be over. Do you really believe a man who in 1948 wouldn’t serve in a fox hole with “race mongrels” suddenly decided he desired to eat in the same restaurant, send his children to the same school and swim in the same pool with “race mongrels” – i.e., African-Americans?

Suffering is not the unique property of the Jew. The story of slavery and segregation in the United States is one that we as Americans and as Jews should never forget. The death, pain, violence and torture – the absolute dehumanization visited upon innocent individuals of color – is something we Jews should empathize with.

We Jews sought out for punishment those who played a role in the Final Solution. It didn’t matter whether it was a mere pencil pusher or a guard in a concentration camp who regularly beat and tortured Jewish inmates – for us, all were guilty and deserved retribution for their crimes.

What retribution did that former exalted cyclops and kleagle (recruitment officer) of the KKK, Robert Byrd, receive for his active involvement in that demonic organization? In life he enjoyed the singular privilege of being a U.S. senator – for half a century! – and in death was granted the honor of lying in state in the sacred chamber of the Senate, eulogized by the president of the United States. To call it disgraceful would be an understatement.

Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz is the rav of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation in Chicago.

About the Author: Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz is the rav of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation in Chicago. During his nearly five decades in the rabbinate he has led congregations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom and served as an officer, Executive Committee member and chair of the Legislative Committee of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “No Tears For Former Klansman Byrd”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Rouhani: Iran Has Right to Enrich Uranium Under Nuclear Deal
Latest Indepth Stories
DemographGraphic2.jpg

In 2015, Israel’s fertility rate (3+ births per woman) is higher than all Arab countries except 3

New Israel Fund and the UN

The New Israel Fund, as usual, condemns the State of Israel rather than condemning a horrible act.

lahore

I sought a Muslim group that claims to preach a peaceful and accepting posture of Islam, Ahmadiyya

Eishet Chayil

While Orthodox men are encouraged to achieve and celebrated for it, Orthodox women too often are not

Jonathan remember, as long as you’re denied your right to come home to Israel you’re still in prison

Reports of a dead baby, a devastated family, and indications of a gloating attacker.

“Yesha” and Binyamin Regional Council leaders said the attack “is not the path of Jews in Judea and Samaria.”

The occasion? The rarely performed mitzvah of pidyon peter chamor: Redemption of a firstborn donkey.

American leftists have a pathological self-inflicted blindness to the dangers of political Islam

Hillary should THANK Trump; By dominating the news he’s overshadowed the implosion of her campaign

Hard to remember when Jewish youth were so hostile to their heritage as they are on campuses today.

Names of the enablers of Iran’s Nuclear weapons will be added next to Hitler’s on the list of infamy

By most accounts, the one person with the political muscle to swing enough Democratic votes to override a veto is Sen. Schumer.

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

More Articles from Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz
Environment

Contrast the gloom&doom of global warming proponents to Jewish compelling&positive environmentalism

pulse-trace-163708_1280

Society’s path on health care (considering “quality” of another’s life) is morally wrong, un-Jewish

No necessity to redefine marriage, just address equal rights for couples in non-nuclear families

Supreme Ct ruled on power of Executive vs Legislative branches NOT on Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

In all cases, condoning Gay Marriage, not only does not advance Tikun Olam, it obstructs it.

The Roman Catholic Church places upon the head of its Pope the 2 crowns of government and religion

The inspiration for the US Constitution was the shared moral values of Judaism and Christianity

I stated with clarity in simple terms, “Jews don’t have gangs.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/no-tears-for-former-klansman-byrd/2010/07/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: