web analytics
September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Apartment 758x530 Africa-Israel at the Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Remembering Jackie Robinson’s Fight Against Anti-Semitism

Robinson witnessed the valuable contributions that Jews were making to the black community's struggle.

Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson.

Moviegoers heading to see the new film “42” will see the story of how Jackie Robinson displayed legendary courage, class and talent in the face of immense pressure and racial hatred as he broke down baseball’s color barrier.

Less well known is Robinson’s commitment to fighting all bigotry, including prejudice emanating from his own community.

It was 1962, a decade and a half after Robinson first took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and just a few years after he retired. Day after day, an angry crowd marched outside Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater protesting against its Jewish owner, Frank Schiffman, and his plan to open a low-cost restaurant with prices that potentially would threaten the business of a more expensive black-owned eatery.

The demonstrators carried anti-Semitic posters and hurled racial epithets, reportedly denouncing Schiffman as a Shylock who wanted to extract a pound of flesh from the black community.

Schiffman turned to several black leaders for help, but despite the increasingly hostile acts of anti-Semitism that were taking place, they all remained silent – except for Robinson.

“I was ashamed to see community leaders who were afraid to speak out when blacks were guilty of anti-Semitism,” Robinson wrote in his 1972 autobiography, I Never Had It Made. “How could we stand against anti-black prejudice if we were willing to practice or condone a similar intolerance?”

Never one to back down from a cause he believed in, Robinson used his syndicated newspaper column to condemn the protesters’ blatant use of anti-Semitism and compared their actions to events that had occurred in Nazi Germany, drawing the ire of many black nationalists in the process.

The nationalists, who had adopted a separatist agenda, retaliated by protesting in front of a nearby Chock Full O’ Nuts coffee shop – Robinson had worked for the chain after his 1957 retirement from baseball– and outside a dinner honoring Robinson’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In turn, several mainstream black leaders, including Roy Wilkins, the longtime leader of the NAACP, quickly came to the defense of Robinson and Schiffman.

“In their fight for equal opportunity, Negroes cannot use the slimy tools of anti-Semitism or indulge in racism, the very tactics against which we cry out,” Wilkins wrote in a telegram to Robinson. “We join you in your straight statement that this is a matter of principle from which there can be no retreat.”

Other leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Philadelphia Tribune publisher Dr. E. Washington Rhodes, also offered their support, according to Robinson.

Major League Baseball’s first black player also managed to pry a condemnation of anti-Semitism from Lewis Micheaux, the owner of Harlem’s National Memorial African Book Store, though Micheaux had sympathized with the marchers and denounced Robinson’s initial criticisms.

Soon after, the protests ceased.

Some Jewish communal officials have noted that Robinson’s strong stance during the 1962 Apollo incident stood in stark contrast to the silence from black leaders during the 1995 protests outside Freddy’s Fashion Mart on 125th Street.

For months, large crowds gathered in front of the Harlem store to protest the efforts of its Jewish owner, Fred Harari, to expand into an adjacent storefront that was occupied by a black-owned business.

The condemnations came only after one protester, Roland Smith Jr., shot and killed seven store employees before burning down the building and taking his own life.

Robinson was always quick to criticize anti-Semitism in the black community, according to Stephen Norwood, a professor at the University of Oklahoma who co-wrote a scholarly article on Robinson’s relationship with Jews.

In a 1997 interview timed to the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s integration of baseball, Norwood pointed out that Robinson was the first to condemn and call for the removal of a Congress of Racial Equality official in 1966 after the official shouted at a group of Jews, “Hitler made a mistake when he didn’t kill enough of you.”

While raising funds for the NAACP and bail money for imprisoned civil-rights marchers, Norwood said, Robinson witnessed the valuable contributions that Jews were making to the black community’s struggle. When Robinson took part in the legendary march on Washington and stood by King in Birmingham, Ala., he saw that some Jews also were placing their bodies on the line for civil-rights causes.

According to Norwood, when black nationalism emerged as a powerful force during the 1960s, Robinson rejected its separatist agenda and continued to include Jews in his major efforts to economically empower the black community with the Freedom National Bank and the Jackie Robinson Construction Company.

Roger Kahn, whose classic The Boys of Summer chronicled Robinson and his teammates’ multi-year road to winning the World Series in 1955, would write later that Robinson’s actions during the Apollo protests should not have come as a surprise.

“He hated anti-Semitism just as he hated prejudice against blacks,” Kahn wrote. “Without qualification and from the gut.”

About the Author: Ami Eden is editor in chief of JTA.


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.

6 Responses to “Remembering Jackie Robinson’s Fight Against Anti-Semitism”

  1. Some people have an ample class and integrity. Mr. Robinson and Dr. King were two that had it and more. Too bad President Obama hasn't learned from them – instead his mentor is Rev. Wright

  2. Les Le Gear says:

    Obama was wrong on Wright.

  3. Grace Acosta says:

    Love this article, we need more like it!

  4. Tolerating intolerance is intolerance.
    Thank you Mr. Robinson

  5. Tolerating intolerance is intolerance.
    Thank you Mr. Robinson

  6. Tolerating intolerance is intolerance.
    Thank you Mr. Robinson

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Protest rally against Metropolitan Opera staging Death of Klinghoffer on 9/22 at 4:30 pm at the Met.
For Grass Roots Klinghoffer Protest 9/22, Jewish Establishment MIA
Latest Indepth Stories
IDF lone soldier and  David Menachem Gordon (z"l).

Why has his death been treated by some as an invitation for an emotional “autopsy”?

Starck-091914

SWOT analysis: Assessing resources, internal Strengths&Weaknesses; external Opportunities&Threats.

Kohn-091914

Strategy? For the longest time Obama couldn’t be bothered to have one against a sworn enemy.

Miller-091914

Seventeen visual skills are needed for success in school, sports, and everyday life.

We started The Jewish Press. Arnie was an integral part of the paper.

Fear alone is substantial; without fusing it to beauty, fear doesn’t reach its highest potential.

Fortunate are we to have Rosh Hashanah for repentance, a shofar to awaken heavenly mercy.

Arab leaders who want the US to stop Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and US agents

National Lawyers Guild:Sworn enemy of Israel & the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the ’70s

A little less than 10 percent of eligible Democratic voters came out on primary day, which translates into Mr. Cuomo having received the support of 6.2 percent of registered Democrats.

The reality, though, is that the Israeli “war crimes” scenario will likely be played out among highly partisan UN agencies, NGOs, and perhaps even the International Criminal Court.

Peace or the lack of it between Israel and the Palestinians matters not one whit when it comes to the long-term agenda of ISIS and other Islamists, nor does it affect any of the long-running inter-Arab conflicts and wars.

Rather than serving as a deterrent against terrorist attacks, Israel’s military strength and capabilities are instead looked at as an unfair advantage in the asymmetrical war in which it finds itself.

Sisi:”The religious nature of the Middle East creates challenges for the governing authorities.”

More Articles from Ami Eden
Jackie Robinson.

Robinson witnessed the valuable contributions that Jews were making to the black community’s struggle.

NEW YORK – It was an unexpected development in an otherwise relatively mundane U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process. Failed Reagan nominee Robert Bork grabbed headlines last week when he spoke out against President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the high court. At the top of his complaint list: As dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan once referred to former Israeli Chief Justice Aharon Barak as her “judicial hero.”

NEW YORK – It was an unexpected development in an otherwise relatively mundane U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process. Failed Reagan nominee Robert Bork grabbed headlines last week when he spoke out against President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the high court. At the top of his complaint list: As dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan once referred to former Israeli Chief Justice Aharon Barak as her “judicial hero.”

In response to the Obama administration’s stepped-up criticism of Israeli building plans in Jerusalem, Jewish groups are slamming the White House for failing to speak out more against Palestinian incitement.

In response to the Obama administration’s stepped-up criticism of Israeli building plans in Jerusalem, Jewish groups are slamming the White House for failing to speak out more against Palestinian incitement.

Forget 2012, Sarah Palin must think she’s headed to the White House even sooner.

Forget 2012, Sarah Palin must think she’s headed to the White House even sooner.

The arrival of the new millennium proved to be a false alarm for computer users. But, it turned out, the switchover from the ‘90s to the ‘00s did unleash the J2K virus.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/remembering-jackie-robinsons-fight-against-anti-semitism/2013/04/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: