Covering the Jewish Side of the March on Washington

How Forward Chronicled History-Making Civil Rights Event

That Was Then: Dr. Martin Luther King prepares for his speech at the 1963 March on Washington.
Courtesy Adas Israel Congregation via Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington
That Was Then: Dr. Martin Luther King prepares for his speech at the 1963 March on Washington.

By Forward Archives

Published August 24, 2013, issue of August 30, 2013.

In the summer of 1963, the Forverts provided extensive coverage of civil rights news, from arrests in Louisiana to altercations between police and protestors in New York.

Reporter Y. Shmulevitz provided on the ground coverage of the March on Washington as it happened. While reporting on the events, editors Moishe Crystal and Simon Weber were among those who used their columns to support the march and detail the collaboration between black and Jewish participants, which they fervently believed would resonate with Americans in the years to come.

August 28, 1963

“What The March On Washington Seeks To Achieve”

By Simon Weber

Negroes want the same things other people want — respect, to be valued, opportunities to develop and they must be considered as individuals.

With regard to the march on Washington all the various currents of Negro lives united around the demonstration, as have most liberal groups in the general population.

forward

August 30, 1963

“Impressions From The March On Washington”

By Y. Shmulevitz

The Jewish voice and Jewish sensibilities were expressed during the moving speeches and prayers at the Lincoln Memorial, in the placards and also amidst the crowds of people.

The organizers of the great ‘march on Washington’ owe a great debt to the current organized labor movement. Untold unions were at the demonstration and gave unquestioned support for the Negro demands for their rights. Organized union groups could be seen throughout the march holding posters and it made a strong impression. One felt the American labor movement had decided to intercede on behalf of the Negroes.

The majority of Jewish participants were from the working classes, found in the rows of the so-called ‘Jewish’ unions, and also among the crowds of locals of the general labor movement.

In general, over 10 percent Whites participated in the march, people of all creeds, backgrounds and from all manner of social classes. There was a rare fraternal sense of solidarity between Whites and Negroes, during the demonstration. So why should Jews be absent?

Their behavior was extremely respectful — there was not one inopportune outcry, not one unwelcome expression. The struggle and its demands were left in the hands of the leadership to display. It only took one call of ‘dignity, please’ on the microphone by 74-year-old Philip Randolph, leader of the massive ‘March on Washington,’ president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping-Car Porters, and the only Negro member of the executive council of the AFL-CIO, for the masses to heed his call.

August 31, 1963

“The Significance of The March On Washington”

By Moishe Crystal

The March will, regardless, go down in history as the most powerful demonstrations of moral ascent and humane virtue.

The Jewish side of things was very apparent and impactful in their participation in Washington. Dr. Joachim Prinz of American Jewish Congress spoke meaningfully of his experience as a rabbi in Hitler’s Germany where he learned that it’s not hatred nor hypocrisy that are the worst problems but rather the most serious tragedy and most shameful problem is silence in the face of mass murder.

The struggle the Negroes have begun for their rights here in this country has to a large degree evolved into a conflict about a moral revivification which can even spread beyond the borders of America.

[King’s] speech was so powerful it will, in time, become apparent that anytime the phrase ‘I have a dream’ is used — Dr. King will be referenced.



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