Page 18


GET THE STATE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS ON-LINE Tough, investigative reporting; the wit and good sense of Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower; Political Intelligence; insightful cultural analysis; and much more. Check out Molly Ivins’ special subscription offer, too! Subscribe on-line or call The Texas Observer at 800-939-6620 THE TEXAS server ston’ s Catholic bishop to join him in protesting the Alfred Dreyfus Affair in France and the pogroms in Russia. He joined forces with Galveston’ s Monsignor James Kirwin to oppose the Klan in the 1920s. He taught at the medical school and fought for the admission of an AfricanAmerican student. Cohen successfully lobbied the Legislature to raise the age of consent for statutory rape cases from 10 to 18 and, as a member of the state prison board got the system to institute vocational training, parole reforms, and the separation of first offenders from seasoned criminals. He ministered to all faiths, particularly after the great hurricane of 1900. Between 1907 and 1914, Cohen oversaw the “Galveston movement,” in which 10,000 Jews entered the country through the Port of Galveston, many staying in Texas. Cohen saw that they were treated fairly and had a means to get to their destination. Through his tenure of more than six decades, Cohen helped define Jewish life in Texas and he served as a matchmaker for other rabbis and growing Texas congregations. These included his son-in-law Ephraim Frisch, who took over the pulpit of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio in 1923. Frisch campaigned against legislation to ban the teaching of evolution, opposed the local school board’s requirement for compulsory Bible reading in the classroom, called for a boycott of the Berlin Olympics, and preached against the poll tax. He was an avid New Dealer, a friend of Clarence Darrow, Maury Maverick, and Diego Rivera. His wife, Ruth Cohen Frisch, held classes for high school and college kids and steered a number of them into theatre and the arts. He encouraged young people to question their belief systems. Frisch helped organize an adult education circuit that brought lecturers and music into all neighborhoods of the city. He did make a number of people angrybacking pecan shellers in their strike against employers that included some of his congregants, like the Freemans and Seligmann. He spoke out against the arrest of Emma Tenayuca and members of the Workers Alliance. Eventually, in 1942, his congregation forced him into retirement. Tyler Rabbi Maurice Faber also made a few people angry, but not many of his congregants. In 1915, he was the first clergy man and second Jew to be appointed to the University of Texas Board of Regents. Born in Hungary, Faber became a civic leader in East Texas. He negotiated with the Carnegie Foundation to fund a library in Tyler and helped build the library’s collection. He oversaw the town’s Associated Charities and Welfare Committee. He fought the emergence of the Klan in Tyler, and he later fought the very governor, James Ferguson, who had appointed him to the Board of Regents. When Ferguson tried to usurp the authority of the Regents and demanded the firing of seven professors, Faber led the opposition to the governor, who called for his resignation. Faber did resign, but only after voting to exonerate the faculty members. Not all of these rabbis were champions of social justice. But many were scholars and book lovers in a barely literate world. Rabbis Cohen, Frisch, and Faber built large book collections. Texas’ first ordained rabbi, Heinrich Schwarz of Hempstead, brought volumes of poetry and Hebrew scholarship with him from Prussia in 1873 and started a lending library. Thus in Hempstead in the late 1800s there were lunch conversations in German about Immanuel Kant, carried on by Rabbi Schwarz, his brother Sam, and sculptor Elisabet Ney and her husband, who lived nearby. Other cultural pioneers, Rabbi Alex Kline and his wife Eleanore, brought an understanding and appreciation of contemporary art to Lubbock in the 1960s. Meanwhile, Border rabbis Sam Perl, a haberdasher and lay rabbi in Brownsville, and Martin Zielonka of El Paso built close ties with Mexico. Zielonka, in particular, helped Mexico build its capacity to accept and help Jewish immigrants, as immigration restrictions in the Twenties squeezed refugee opportunities for entrance into the United States. Jewish Stars in Texas begins with Heinrich Schwarz’ s arrival in 1873 and ends with Rabbi Levi Olan, who served Dallas’ Temple Emanu-El from 1949-1984. Olan was a singular figure in Dallas in the ’50s and ’60s. He opposed McCarthyism, antiSemitism, and racism. In the wake of the Kennedy assassination, Fortune magazine called Olan Dallas’ “most powerful religious voice.” Olan studied John Dewey and Martin Buber and believed in a “moral universe.” He championed federal public housing and the integration of schools. He joined Martin Luther King, Jr., in leading a rally against the poll tax in Dallas’ Fair Park Auditorium in 1963. He never shied from doing what was right. When I first saw the title, Jewish Stars in Texas, I thought that could be the name of a Mel Brooks movie. But it turns out to be a story that needed telling. There they area pantheon of past Jewish leaders that is, unfortunately, not mirrored in the Jewish present. In a state with a miniscule Jewish population, where anti-Semitism was not uncommon or politely hidden, these rabbis had remarkable reach. Hollace Weiner’s new study helps extend that reach a little further. Geoff Rips is a former Observer editor and great-great-grandson of Rabbi Heinrich Schwarz, whose face adorns this book’s cover. DECEMBER 22, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21