This week, Americans commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, when white residents of the Oklahoma city—sometimes with the assistance of public officials—attacked the black neighborhood known as Greenwood. According to historians’ estimates, between 100 and 300 were killed and over 1,000 homes destroyed, along with myriad businesses and churches. Phil Goldfarb describes some instances of Jewish heroism from this shameful episode of U.S. history:
While relatively few whites exhibited empathy and compassion for the persecuted African American community of Tulsa—largely due to the influence of the Ku Klux Klan and others—many Jewish families made efforts to help African American families by taking them into their homes or businesses, feeding and clothing them, as well as hiding them during and after the atrocity. [Some] went into North Tulsa to secure their black employees, friends, and their families.
Many of the Jews in the city were recent immigrants from Eastern Europe who remembered firsthand suffering through violent pogroms and anti-Semitic policies in the Russian empire and elsewhere.
The Tulsan Abraham (Abe) Solomon Viner (1885-1959) and his wife Anna (1887-1976) owned the Peoples Building and Loan Association. On the day of the massacre, Abe went to all of the homes on his block, collected all of the maids from their quarters, and assembled them in his living room. He then sat by the front door with a shotgun in case anyone broke into the house.