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Thursday, June 30, 2005

The (NYC) Jewish Week: Mississippi Healing?

For the Jews of red-clay country, Killen verdict signals a new beginning. But much work remains, they say.
Doug Chandler - Special To The Jewish Week

The memory all these years later — 41 years after Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were found buried in the red clay of Mississippi — is still chilling.

In 1964, Alfred Rosenbaum, who would later become the mayor of Meridian, Miss., and other members of the Jewish community were working to end segregation when civil rights workers from outside the area began showing up.


Now 85, Rosenbaum recalled the conversation he had with Schwerner in the lobby of a black-owned Meridian hotel just days before Schwerner and his two colleagues disappeared in nearby Philadelphia, Miss. It lasted only a few minutes.

The owner of the hotel, Rosenbaum remembered, urged him to warn Schwerner that he should leave the state for his own safety.

“I urged them not to do what they doing,” Rosenbaum said, referring to Schwerner and other civil rights workers from outside Mississippi. “I said, ‘If you’re lynched, I can’t unlynch you.’

The story, told to others in the past, surfaced again last week with the conviction of Edgar Ray Killen, the former Ku Klux Klan leader involved in the 1964 killings of Schwerner, 24, and his two companions, Chaney, 21, and Goodman, 20. Chaney was a local black man, while Schwerner and Goodman, both New York City natives, were Jewish.