The Jewish Community Relations Council was an organization founded to protect Minnesota’s Jewish community as well as to oppose and protest the state’s pro-fascist and anti-Semitic climate in the 1930s.
The organization, founded in 1936 under the name the Anti-Defamation Council of Minnesota, was originally created to bring attention to development of anti-Semitic and white supremacist groups like the Silver Shirts. In 1939, under the leadership of Samuel Scheiner, the group changed its name to the Minnesota Jewish Council and is today known as the Jewish Community Relations Council.
The group under Scheiner protested anti-Jewish discrimination, significantly in 1939 winning a court case in which a judge found the distribution of anti-Semitic material to be illegal. The Council also brought attention to other forms of anti-Jewish discrimination used by real estate agents, resorts, and employers to subvert anti-discrimination laws. Similar to codes that discriminated on the basis of race, in Minnesota, words such as “selected clientele” or preferences for “Gentiles” were used to unfairly target Jewish Minnesotans. In World War II, these efforts would focus in on similar discrimination used against Jews serving in the American armed forces.
By using strategies of activism focused on holding people accountable (i.e. through the courts, through letter writing campaigns, through threats of boycotts) rather than just raising awareness, the Council managed to fight much of the discrimination faced by Minnesotan Jews in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The Council still exists today, striving to create an inclusive space and community for members of both the Jewish community and the general Minnesotan community.
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