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Press ReleaseBlack-Jewish Relations

New York, NY, July 17, 1996...The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the National Urban League today presented a $100,000 check from their "Rebuild the Churches Fund" to the head of the Congress of National Black Churches (CNBC) for distribution to congregations victimized by the recent church burnings. The contributions, along with letters of support to the congregants, poured in from all over the country as part of the tremendous response to ads that ran nationally and in local newspapers. The presentation took place at ADL National Headquarters in New York City.

"As we witnessed the burning churches on our nightly newscasts," said David H. Strassler, ADL National Chairman, "we knew we had to act."

Over the months, ADL urged the Justice Department to investigate the arsons, lobbied Congress to enact tougher legislation, provided local law enforcement with expertise on hate groups and worked with communities to increase security at their institutions, yet "we knew we needed to do more," added Mr. Strassler.

"As far as we are concerned, one black church victimized by racially motivated arson is too many," said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman. "We believe Americans of all races and religious backgrounds want to help comfort the victims and support their efforts to rebuild. The enormous outpouring we have received in response confirms that we are right." Referring to the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) in Germany when Nazis brutalized Jews and smashed their synagogues and shops, the ADL leader said, "If only someone had run ads on November 9, 1938, perhaps millions of innocent Holocaust victims would have been saved."

Receiving the check, Reverend H. Michael Lemmons, Executive Director of CNBC which represents 65,000 churches with a worldwide membership of more than 19 million, expressed his "sincere appreciation for your contribution" which "sends the message that we are all affected by the church burnings." The Reverend explained, "Historically, the African American church has been more than a place to gather and worship...the church has been the focal point for everything from human services and civil rights to economic was the church that was the womb of our community where great leaders, community activists, artists and orators were born, nurtured and developed to become experts in their respective disciplines." In closing, Reverend Lemmons said, "we are strenghtened and encouraged by your visible and very tangible demonstration of solidarity."

The National Urban League's Senior Vice President Mildred L. Love said, "This is indeed an opportunity to rebuild the churches -- but also to bring together different people and reduce the racial divide in America, understanding that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

From Maine to California, and from Alaska to Florida, thousands responded to the ads, which ran originally in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Atlanta Constitution. Subsequently the ads appeared in newspapers around the country, including the Black and Jewish media. The smallest donation was for $1 and the largest was $12,500, with the average contribution being $50. Among the outpouring of letters were several from a class of 9th graders who had just finished studying civil rights in the United States. "Nobody has the right to keep a person from worship," wrote one of the 14-yr.-olds. "Although you have no place for gathering to worship, you do not need one. You can praise God anywhere, anytime....I hope for a fast recovery for you and your church family. When this is all over, we will all be stronger. We will not let this stop us."

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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1996 Anti-Defamation League