It's depressing to read this and consider how little has changed in St. Louis over the past 45 years. I found this statement in the published transcript of William Kahn's keynote speech to the Jewish Community Center Action on the Urban Crisis Conference. The Jewish Welfare Board conducted a survey in 1968 to learn how JCCs were reacting to the urban crisis. Even after the results were published in December of '68, the organization still felt lost. Leaders wondered, how could they best guide agencies towards effective programming to address urban poverty and racial discrimination? The Public Affairs Committee of the JWB called a conference together on March 25-26th, 1969, and invited executives and representatives from urban JCCs to come to New York and discuss their successes and their struggles.
William Kahn was incredibly progressive, and under his leadership the St. Louis JCCA mounted one of the most well-organized responses to the riots and disorder of the summers of '67 and '68. While no one expected him to change the world, or for the JCCA to single-handedly defeat racism in St. Louis, how can we not despair over this evidence? It's unfair to say they failed--in fact the JCCA did make a big impact on many black lives in St. Louis. I'm just left unsure about what to learn from this parallel. I've long believed that change happens at the margins, and that you have to believe in baby steps, but I've never been particularly idealistic either. It's so easy to swing towards cynicism when you see history repeating itself.