In 2021, US President Joe Biden became the first president to publicly acknowledge the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The Tulsa Race Massacre – also known as the Black Wall Street Massacre and the Tulsa Race Riot – was one of the most horrendous incidents of racial violence in United States history.
Between May 31st and June 1st 1921, hundreds of Black citizens were injured and killed, and thirty-five blocks of the city were destroyed, along with more than 1,200 homes.
While there were few white people who helped the Black community after the massacre (due to a strong Ku Klux Klan presence in the area), members of the Tulsa Jewish community made efforts to help Black families by taking them into their homes or businesses, feeding and clothing them, as well as hiding them during and after the atrocity.
Many of the Jews in Tulsa were recent immigrants in the early 1900s from Eastern Europe who remembered firsthand suffering through violent pogroms and antisemitic policies in the Russian Empire. Some of the stories of how individual Jews saved people are so important, such as a married couple from Latvia who owned a grocery store and hid some people in the large pickle vats in the store. The wife hid little children under her skirt. There are stories of Jews hiding their black employees, friends, and their families in their homes and guarding them with guns, in car trunks driving them to safety, garages and other places.
The Eastern European Jewish immigrants had memories of pogroms and knew what it was to be a target and a victim, so they helped their fellow man. They used their own experiences to help make sure this did not happen to others.
They used their memories for good.
Click here to read the article in Gesher L’Europa by Phil Goldfarb.