"Fair housing" as a Jewish issue

Nathaniel Weyl asserts:
Another case of the Jewish voters cutting off their own noses was the vote in 1964 on various state and city "public accommodations" ordinances. These measures restricted or totally abolished the right of house and apartment owners to refuse to sell or rent on the basis of race. The purpose was to enable Negroes to move into previously white residential areas. Since residential discrimination against Jews had become pretty much of a dead letter, the Jewish interest was identical with that of the other whites.
While Weyl is no doubt correct that as an objective matter the impact of residential discrimination on Jews in 1960s America was negligible, this did not stop Jews from viewing the fight against freedom of association as a "Jewish issue". As perceived by Jews, Jewish interests were hardly "identical with those of the other whites".
In confronting housing discrimination [. . .], Jews navigated the difficult terrain of determining how an issue might be a Jewish one even when Jews were not always directly involved in it. A 1960 investigation revealing that Jews, among other minorities, had been systematically handicapped in their ability to purchase homes in the Grosse Pointe suburbs of Detroit stood out for Jewish leaders as the exception that proved the rule: in only very few cases did Jews face housing discrimination. A NCRAC report from 1960 explained, "All of us are cognizant . . . that discrimination against Jews in housing is trivial in comparison with discrimination against Negroes; that it is an irritant and an affront to Jews, whereas it is a deprivation as well as a deep indignity to Negroes." Jewish leaders, the report admonished, should not concern themselves with the "occasional Judenrein [Jew-free, a term used by the Nazi regime] apartment houses or neighborhoods, but with those festering and unresolved problems created by the persistence of racial housing segregation in the cities and suburbs." A few years later, NCRAC "took some gratification in the fact that Jewish organizations and individuals are prominently represented in citizens' fair housing bodies." To liberal Jewish leaders, fair housing was a Jewish issue.

[Lila Corwin Berman. Metropolitan Jews: Politics, Race, and Religion in Postwar Detroit]

The Grosse Pointe Gross Point System
In the Spring of 1960 as a result of a court case, the realtors association of very affluent suburban Grosse Pointe (the association brought together realtors from all the Grosse Pointes--Farms, Woods, etc.), just to the northeast of the city of Detroit, was "exposed." [. . .]

Under the system a realtor would find a potential purchaser for a home. Then a private investigator would be hired to make a report on the person. The report would be given to a committee of three brokers and they would take information from the report and use it to assign points to the buyer. Points would be given for matters such as the "extent to which" the buyer was "Americanized," along with his "general standing." This included references to the "swarthiness of appearance," "friends," "dress," "religion," "education," "use of grammar," and "accent."

Norman C. Thomas writes: "The screening process was not required for persons of Northern European ancestry, e.g., Anglo-Saxons, Germans, French, Scandinavians, etc. Out of a maximum 100 points, Poles had to score 55 to pass, Southern Europeans 65, and Jews 85. Negroes and Orientals were not eligible for consideration, their disqualification being automatic."

Grosse Pointe in MI
The Grosse Pointe area was well-known for the point system, in which those deemed undesirable (non-Protestants, Eastern Europeans, etc.) had to amass more points in order to purchase a home. Realtors and the Grosse Pointe Property Owner's Association would sometimes hire private detectives, who would find answers to various questions, including "Appearances - swarthy, slightly swarthy, or not at all?" and "Accents - pronounced, medium, slight, not at all?" The maximum score for the survey was 100, with most prospective residents needing a score of 50.

However, according to Michigan Attorney General Paul Adams, "a Pole is expected to have five additional points. An Italian, Yugoslav, Greek, Syrian, Lebanese, Armenian, Maltese, Rumanian, or other southern European is required to have 15 additional points. A Jew is required to have 35 additional points and his points are more difficult to achieve because of penalties in a special marking system for Jews. Orientals and Negroes are not considered at all."

In 1960, William E. Bufalino Jr., a Jewish attorney from Detroit, sued the city for libel because he was branded "swarthy" and denied a home. The state of Michigan ordered the suburb to abandon the system within 30 days. However, there is some indication that it persisted officially until 1961, and possibly unofficially after that.

"'The most desirable neighborhood for the raising of children, according to these Grosse Pointe real estate dealers and brokers,' Rabbi [Leon] Fram said, 'is one in which the children shall never see a Negro except in the role of a porter or a shoe shine boy, never encounter any human being who believes in a faith other than Christianity, never hear a foreign accent.' He quoted the minister of a Grosse Pointe church as stating that 'Jesus Christ could never qualify for residence in Grosse Pointe.'" -"Klan Standards Prevail in G.P., Rabbi Charges", Detroit News, 14 May 1960

James Loewen on "sundown towns":
The practice of exclusion was usually quite open. Hundreds of towns posted signs. The Academy Award-winning movie of 1947, Gentleman's Agreement, was about the method by which Darien, Connecticut, one of the most prestigious suburbs of New York City, kept out Jews, and that publicity hardly ended the practice. In the 1960s, some residents of Edina, Minnesota, the most prestigious suburb of Minneapolis, boasted that their community had, as they put it, "Not one Negro and not one Jew."

[In Race and Racism in the United States: An Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic edited by Charles A. Gallagher, Cameron D. Lippard]

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