Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Should Jews back boycotts, or not?
"A united front has forced positive changes since 1867"

by Rafael Medoff

Friday May 17, 2002

Full article on the Web at:


"...Yet the history of American Jewry is replete with instances in which Jews used the boycott weapon, often with considerable success.

"In 1867, for example, Jewish organizations launched a boycott against insurance companies suspected of discriminating against Jewish clients. The companies soon changed their policies.

"Ten years later, Jewish groups boycotted stores and other businesses owned by the A.T. Stewart Company after one of its resort hotels refused admittance to a prominent Jewish banker, Joseph Seligman. The boycott brought about the cancellation of the hotel's discriminatory policy.

"An increase in the price of kosher meat from 12 cents to 18 cents per pound in 1902 prompted Jewish women on New York City's Lower East Side to organize a boycott of kosher butchers, complete with picket lines, carefully organized neighborhood boycott committees, and patrols to enforce compliance. Within weeks, the Beef Trust agreed to drop its prices.

"A 1905 speech by a Brooklyn school principal urging students to be 'more like Jesus' provoked parents to undertake a citywide boycott of classes by Jewish pupils. The protests compelled the Board of Education to restrict activities such as the singing of Christian religious hymns in public schools. A 1930s boycott of products from Nazi Germany met with mixed results, in part because of divisions within the American Jewish community.

"Immediately after Hitler's rise to power in January 1933, grassroots Jewish activists began promoting a boycott of German goods, arguing that a sustained boycott campaign could bring about 'ruin and disaster' for the German economy and thereby 'put Adolf Hitler out of power.'

"Major Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Committee and B'nai B'rith opposed the boycott, arguing that it might arouse anti-Semitic accusations that Jews were dragging America into a conflict with Germany. The American Jewish Congress declined to join the boycott movement during its six months, and even after endorsing it did not establish its own boycott bureau until the following year. AJC president Stephen Wise later explained: 'As a pacifist, I was hesitant about the boycott because it is an economic weapon.'

"Historians are divided as to whether an immediate and broadly based boycott could have seriously harmed Hitler's regime..."