Jews United for Justice

2008 Heschel-King Award
Bill Kahn and Dr. Henry Givens, Jr.


Inside and Outside

Written on Parashat Yitro [Jethro]
Exodus
in which Yitro/Jethro the outsider
teaches Moses our teacher the insider
what to do.

I was a bit of a ball player
Bill Kahn described himself
he began with:
where he comes from
the inside story on his inside community
are you a Pittsburgher?
he asked me.
He worked with delinquent boys
Sportman’s club
something engaged him
took his degrees in social work.

He accepted a position in St. Louis
a little settlement house
youth worker.

His Dad was phys. ed. director
Irene Kaufman Settlement House in Pittsburgh
he was national co-chairman
it was financed by wealthy German Jews
the Our Crowd group
they built the Settlement House
to try and clean up the eastern Europeans a little
from the inside.

Bill worked with Neighborhood Advisory Committee
an inside effort to sustain community
two separate school systems at the time
he decided to leave St. Louis.

He said, I’ll take the next job offered to me
he went to Denver.

Two and a half years later
he was asked --
would you consider coming back to St. Louis?
St. Louis had become inside for him.
If he returned
one of the first items on the agenda would be  –
deal with racial policies
“We’ll get back to you --”
Three days later, they said
-- OK.

We had a meeting
it went to midnight
people talked about their own opportunities
-- the nanny that raised me
who would be the first to join us?

I went to Bill White the Cardinals first baseman
later he said somewhat jokingly
I wrecked his career
he tore his Achilles tendon on the racketball court
he had to suffer as President of the National League.

Bill’s Dad Joseph Ziggy Kahn
organized the Anti-German Olympic League in 1933
he campaigned to keep the United States
out of the 1936 Olympic games
unless the Germans denounced anti-Semitism
he was quite a football player Bill’s Dad
he ran the zig zag.

Bill returned to his home town
Pittsburgh
as head of Federation.
He then went to New York City
it was then the worst per capita giving town in the country
UJA was separate from the Federation
I was the hired gun to bring them together.

Sometimes it’s the outsider who brings the change.
He left New York to return to St. Louis
as head of Federation
hired for two years
stayed for four
he had become inside in St. Louis.

About Dr. King –
I had him booked to come to St. Louis
Lindbergh and Schuetz roads was not built at the time
I struck out at all the liberal sites
Jerry Grollman stepped up and we booked UH.
Always the night before Liberal forum
at a quarter to Six
one of the members hosted a dinner
this time Paul Berwald’s house.
I got there twenty minutes late
off to the side
he’s leaning against a wall
he just got out of jail
he had been worked over pretty bad
I saw him standing there.

Folks, I said
St. Louis Post-Dispatch wants an interview
I had Shirlee with me
we walked outside
what’s this about an interview? Dr. King asked.
I’m going to drive you around St. Louis
and we’ll have a bite to eat
he feel asleep in three minutes.

There were twenty five hundred people at UH
afterwards
people came up just to touch the cloth
of his suit coat.

Then came the I Have A Dream Speech [D.C., August 28, 1963]
I chartered a plane
we had priests, ministers, rabbis
we flew to Washington
in those days
we walked town to the tarmac.
I slammed into Dr. King
Dr. King – you OK?
Mr. Kahn  -- you bailing anyone out of meetings nowadays?

Bill was asked in on a tutorial project in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
he brought Abe Boxerman from LA
a couple of J people
outsiders to help create inside wisdom and community.

We were scared out of our minds
1965
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
they took us to a church
all kind of cars pulled up
I had Abe Boxerman with me from LA.
Mrs. Brown agreed to put us up
Abe was about 20 years older than me
he had a teeny little room
I had the couch.

All night long cars going around
screaming
hey Bill – I am thinking -- what are you doing here?
I got four kids and a wife back home.

I knew what I was doing there.

Next day –
they went to the YMCA exec in Tuscaloosa
he had them wait an hour and a half
they struck out there.

We went to where the African American kids
played ball
struck out there.

We went to Spellman College
there were nine guys playing basketball
hey – you want to play?
I hadn’t played in 16 years
where do I get a towel
you bring your own towel
you can use my towel after I use it
they’re watching me
what are you doing here?
I am looking for tutors
How many could you use?
How many in the day?
How many at night?
That launched the project
it’s called Vision
the name Dr. King gave it.

The goals of the project:
To prepare high school youth in Alabama for college entrance,
help each student to his proper level of advancement
and develop an interest in learning,
prepare Negroes for integration,
and to lay the basis for a permanent year round tutorial program.

 

In St. Louis
everything was in place for a Holocaust Museum
Bill left
he came back
outside returned inside.

Everything was in the same place
a couple of rabbis opposed it
they had their reasons
I came back af tzu lokhes  [in spite of it all]
went back to the meetings
I went step by step
the vote was unanimous.

I like to think
that some of this stuff
had an impact
on my kids,
Bill said.


Dr. Henry  Givens, Jr.
inside wisdom

I am a product of the St. Louis public school system.
When I came to Harris-Stowe
there was one building
one degree.

I was born and reared in St. Louis
this building
was Vachon High School
one of two high schools that graduated Black students.

I went to the other
Sumner High School --

We were sitting in the Dr. Henry Givens, Jr.
Administration Building
renamed in 2005 to honor Dr. Givens
President of Harris-Stowe State University
since it became a state institution
in 1979.

I am a graduate of Lincoln University
I was asked to turn Lincoln around
like we did here at Harris-Stowe

The inside wisdom applied to the community
he turned around Lincoln University
held both positions simultaneously
returned to his position at Harris-Stowe.

I have served this position
under four governors.

He was the first African American
to serve the state of Missouri
as assistant commissioner of education.

About the Martin Luther King Jr. State Celebration Commission --

I’ve had this job –
I’m in my 22nd year.
The Commission had to pull everything together
Governor Ashcroft appointed me chairman in 1985
we put a little group together here
the first year we had 20
25 little things.

It grew all over the State
today I believe we’re the second largest celebration
anywhere.

I never met him
I saw him at a distance
on his first trip
to Christ Church Cathedral
I was a young teacher in Webster Groves
5th – 6th grade teacher
I didn’t have the kind of influence then
to get in close.

But I went to his funeral
I had a friend
I knew somebody who could get us in to see his body
it was 2, 3 in the morning
we went in the side door.

Everyone who was with him
we’ve had here over the years
everyone.

When I came to Harris – Stowe
there was one degree
one building
two years ago we became a University
see that building on the corner?
That was the Vachon Recreation Center.

We’re re-doing it
a fine library
it’s where we grew up.

I went to the Sumner Recreation Center
it was open Monday through Saturday
I made it to adulthood
never taking a swim on Sunday.

I am a product of the St. Louis public school system
a graduate of Lincoln University --

I speak from the inside
I grew up here.

What a people leaned from the Midian priest Jethro
his wisdom    outside wisdom
what he taught us
-- how to bring down the wisdom from the outside
its applications
its implications and inferences
what we would need to draw for ourselves.
living inside.
Outside becomes inside.
There is no outside wisdom.
There is no us and them even.
There is only us and the wisdom is all inside.
Outside becomes inside.

Our world is a neighborhood
we must all learn to live together as brothers
or we will all perish as fools.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.
-- written by Rabbi James Stone Goodman for King-Heschel Celebration, 2008