Martin Peretz on Morton Klein on Jeremiah Wright
Thoughts on Wright
I've just read Dayo Olopade's fascinating piece, "Far Wright," on Barack Obama's far-left preacher, Jeremiah Wright. It's an insightful piece, and it evoked memories of the two black churches I sometimes attended when I lived in Georgetown. But I'm no expert and Dayo is.
A good friend of mine, Morton Klein, who is president of the Zionist Organization of America, a post once held by none other than Louis Dembitz Brandeis, sent me his own impressions of Jeremiah Wright, impressions that contrast with what one might think after having heard Obama characterize his pastor. Now, Klein is not for Obama; and I am. But what Klein remembers about the Philadelphia in which he and Wright grew up is a contribution towards understanding this strange but apparently common type of preacher.
OBAMA'S PASTOR RAISED IN PRIVILEGE, NOT POVERTY
How do I know?
It happens that, as a Philadelphian, I attended Central High School – the same public school Jeremiah Wright attended from 1955 to 1959. He could have gone to an integrated neighborhood school, but he chose to go to Central, a virtually all-white school. Central is the second oldest public high school in the country, which attracts the most serious academic students in the city. The school then was about 80% Jewish and 95% white. The African-American students, like all the others, were there on merit. Generally speaking, we came from lower/middle class backgrounds. Many of our parents had not received a formal education and we tended to live in row houses. In short, economically, we were roughly on par.
I attended Central a few years after Rev. Wright, so I did not know him personally. But I knew of him and I know where he used to live – in a tree-lined neighborhood of large stone houses in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. This is a lovely neighborhood to this day. Moreover, Rev. Wright's father was a prominent pastor and his mother was a teacher and later vice-principal and disciplinarian of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, also a distinguished academic high school. Two of my acquaintances remember her as an intimidating and strict disciplinarian and excellent math teacher. In short, Rev. Wright had a comfortable upper-middle class upbringing. It was hardly the scene of poverty and indignity suggested by Senator Obama to explain what he calls Wright's anger and what I describe as his hatred.
In recent days, we have seen clips of several of Rev. Wright's sermons, showing him declaring "G-d Damn America," blaming America for intentionally creating the drug problem, for creating the AIDS virus, for supporting Israeli "state terrorism against Palestinians," for being responsible for causing 9-11, for being white supremacist and racist and for intentionally keeping people in poverty.
We have also learned that, last year, Rev. Wright's Church honored with a lifetime achievement award Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, who has said that "Judaism is a gutter religion," that "Hitler was a very great man" and that "white people are potential humans, they haven't evolved yet." In fact, Rev. Wright accompanied Farrakhan in the 1980s on a visit to Muammar Gaddafi's Libya, which was then illegal under U.S. law. Nevertheless, the Church and Wright's successor as pastor, Rev. Otis Moss III, have issued a statement defending and praising Wright, while completely ignoring Wright's horrific statements.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America.