Rabbi Israel Dresner, 81, says he’s the most arrested rabbi in America. At least that was the case in the 1960s, he says, when Dresner was one of dozens of rabbis who answered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for clergy from the North to join the civil rights movement in the Jim Crow South. From the Freedom Rides of 1961 to the famous march in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery in March 1965, when Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel walked in the front row with King, Jews were prominent participants in the battle for civil rights that dominated the first half of the '60s.
A well-funded coalition of realtors and landlords, intent on protecting white neighborhoods and their attendant property values from feared black incursions, immediately mounted a campaign to amend the state Constitution and guarantee property owners' continued ability to deny minorities equal access to housing.