top of page

17 Rabbis Leave for St. Augustine to Participate in Civil Rights Campaign

June 17, 1964 - In response to a telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King (pictured today in St. Augustine, Fla.), 17 Reform rabbis left Atlantic City this afternoon for St. Augustine to participate, in the words of Dr. King, “in prophetic witness against the social evils of our time.”

The telegram from the civil rights leader interrupted a session early this morning of the 75th annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis at the Ambassador Hotel in Atlantic City. It was greeted with an ovation when read by Rabbi Leon I. Feuer, president of the group.

In his telegram, Dr. King asserted that St. Augustine had become the “battleground between the forces of good and ill will in our nation.”

“Strong pockets of Birch and Klan resistance, combined with indifference and fear in the white community, create a virtual concentration camp existence for Negroes,” he said.

The civil rights leader said the nation’s oldest city “can be changed to a democratic community; we cannot allow them to celebrate 400 years of bigotry and hate.”

Here, Dr. King asked: “Won’t you join me in a prophetic witness against the social evils of our time?”

Five hundred rabbis were in attendance, and scores of hands were immediately raised.

In the group were those who occupied important pulpits and positions in American Reform Judaism. In interviews, the spiritual leaders, ranging in age from the early 20’s to mid-40s, stressed that the nation’s democratic ideals and principles would not achieve fulfillment until the Negro was fully franchised in every respect.

Support this project at


bottom of page