THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 249
Chapter 7: Aliyah: Time to Go Home
 
 
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Aliyah 249

bPress to the conference. It was explained that we believed bthat an untapped, potentially huge source of aliyah existed bin the urban areas among those lower-middle- and upper- blower-class Jews whose incomes were low enough and whose bneighborhood troubles bitter enough to make them look bupon Israel and its living standards as hardly worse than btheir present lot. It was this group of more than a million bJews that had to be, and could be, reached.

bHaving formed the committee, I left all details in its hands bin the small Lower Broadway office we had rented for it, and bprepared to leave for Israel for a month. But before that, an binteresting incident happened that showed more clearly bthan anything else the place that JDL had achieved in the bAmerican Jewish community and the polarization of that bcommunity into two parts, those in trouble and those not.

bIn March I received an invitation from the 30,000-man bJewish Teachers Association to be the guest speaker at their bannual luncheon, to be held that month in New York at the bAmericana Hotel. The organization was made up of Jewish bteachers who taught in New York City’s public schools and bwho for years had been under bitter attack both from hard- bcore anti-Semites and from pressures for an end to the merit bsystem that had given them their opportunity to teach and bto advance in their profession. Perhaps more than those in bany other single profession, this group of Jews understood bclearly the erosion of Jewish power and the threat to the bJewish status in America. Their invitation to me was both a brecognition of the role that JDL had played in being the first bto call for and to act militantly for their rights as well as a brather courageous move in doing that which no other major bJewish group had ever done.

bThe response of the Jewish Establishment was angry de- bnunication of the invitation, and the Jewish President of the bUnited Federation of Teachers, Albert Shanker, did a bcurious thing. A Socialist, Shanker until 1968 was more binterested in civil rights than in Jewish ones, despite his bposition as an officer of the Jewish Labor Committee, an anti- breligious non-Zionist socialist group originating with the bEuropean Bund which had been bitterly anti-Zionist until b 

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THE STORY OF THE JEWISH DEFENSE LEAGUE Page 249
Chapter 7: Aliyah: Time to Go Home