Day 25 of Jewish American Heritage Month: Learn about the civil rights movement


An indirect effect of the Holocaust’s vicious hatred on American Jews, combined with Jewish ethical teachings, was to spur great levels of participation in the American civil rights movement. Approximately half of the civil rights attorneys in the South during the 1960s and half of the white Freedom Riders who fought segregation were Jewish. They comprised nearly two-thirds of the whites who traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to challenge Jim Crow laws, including Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, two of the three activists in the campaign who were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan (the case inspired the 1989 thriller “Mississippi Burning”). Through June 2, the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia is exhibiting “Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars at Black Colleges,” which tells the story of Jewish academics from Germany and Austria who found positions at historically black colleges and universities in the Jim Crow South. It was also the subject of a 2011 documentary.

ADVERTISEMENT: Come explore the blessings and challenges of freedom at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.

Rebecca Soffer Rebecca Soffer is a New York-based writer and producer who has worked at “The Colbert Report” and Reboot. She tweets from @rebeccasoffer.