Merit

Not only the elementary and high schools of the city were in chaos but the city colleges now saw an alliance of Blacks and Puerto Ricans together with a handful of Jewish leftists who were demanding a quota system based on the percentage of ethnic groups in the city. This, at City College, would have entailed the adding of thousands of Blacks and other nonwhites who had not been able to enter the school on merit and the dropping of other thousands of Jews, who had. Part of CCNY was shut down by Blacks and when violence flared, CCNY President Buell Gallagher, in an act of cowardice, closed down the entire school. For more than a month, students could not study while racism raged triumphant. While rally after rally was held on campus by the militants, no one dared demonstrate openly against the quota system. In May, I and twenty other JDL people held an open rally in the middle of the campus against racism and reverse discrimination, surrounded by hundreds of militant Blacks and their Jewish supporters. Heckling and obscenities punctuated the air. As we stood together in a small knot, the mob suddenly surged forward and I am not ashamed to admit that I was frightened. But as we pushed back, the mob broke up and the rally continued. It was a small victory, perhaps, but the four Christian students who came up after the rally and said �You guys have guts, that was the first rally of this kind we�ve seen here. Can we join the JDL?� understood perfectly what had happened. They did join, and at one point some 4 percent of our membership was non-Jewish.

We saw the CCNY developments as part of a potential disaster for Jews of America. If the merit system would be scrapped, it would be not only in schools but in jobs and every area of life. The Jew, with 3 percent of the total population of the United States, would face the same impossible situation that he had faced in Europe under numerous clauses. Jewish opportunity and power would be wrecked, and indeed this is exactly what Daniel Moynahan had warned against years before, remarks that earned for him the attacks of a number of liberal Jews. And so we fought the phenomenon on a number of levels.

Perhaps the most bizarre was the day we decided to carry quotas to their logical conclusion, by announcing (we thought, as an obvious put-on) that we were demanding that the New York Mets baseball team agree immediately to the hiring of enough Jews on the team to make up 26.2 percent of their roster - we assumed that that was the percentage of Jews in New York City. In a letter to the late Johnny Murphy, the Mets� general manager, I wrote:

�Jews for years have suffered the disability of Jewish mothers who insisted that they get an education. Because of this, they have been disadvantaged, unable to compete with other groups in athletics. Under the merit system they are unfairly excluded from full participation in American life. We demand that the Mets immediately agree to a roster that will include 26.2 percent Jews.�

That June, as the annual talent draft of players was held at New York�s Americana Hotel, JDL demonstrators, including two in baseball uniform, appeared and a wide-eyed crowd read such banners as: �Racist, colonialist, imperialist, fascist Mets� and �Merit, shmerit, we want our quota,� while the uniformed ones carried �So what if I can�t hit, I�m motivated� and �The hell with second base. No more tokenism. I want to pitch.� As an added fillip, we had one �Bulgarian with us who demanded, as part of his quota, that 0.03 percent of the Mets be Bulgarian. Probably the funniest part of the whole affair was the fact that so many took it seriously! A CBS staff man wrote us a blistering letter comparing us to the militants who demanded quotas, and Johnny Murphy himself called me to explain that our demands were impossible but if we knew any good Jewish ball players he would be glad to look them over. Such is the madness of our times.

By Rabbi Meir Kahane
1975
The Story of the Jewish Defense League
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