In 1964, Rabbi Joachim Prinz committed a "divisive" act by saying from his pulpit: “A vote for Goldwater is a vote for Jewish suicide.” [1] Prinz had a tendency to run toward frightening moments such as the one we’re in right now. Some accused him of being “radical” when he said things few others had the foresight or courage to say. But he did not waver.

Goldwater had voted against the Civil Rights Act for which Prinz and his civil rights activist comrades had fought so hard, and he was supported by the John Birch Society and other racist groups. In his rejection of the act, Goldwater had brought with him all the Republicans who supported his presidential campaign, risking the bill's defeat. For Prinz, Jewish survival was directly threatened by someone like Goldwater, who refused to ensure the equal rights of minorities within American democracy.

Newspaper articles reported Prinz’s “radical” statement and Prinz received many letters from Jews and non-Jews decrying both the content of what he said and the fact that he said it all. Prinz, however, did not waver. He believed that a vote for someone supported by hate groups would be self-abnegation on the part of a Jewish voter. And Prinz believed in his right to speak about politics from the point of view of religion.

 Prinz did not waver, even when Goldwater himself wrote, imploringly asking how Prinz could say such a thing about him. Prinz replied,

 My dear Senator Goldwater, I want to thank you for giving me an opportunity to reply to your letter and to answer the questions, which you raise. . . . I felt that your election as President would have been detrimental to Jewish interests. . . . I believed then as I believe now that the policies you advocated . . . would destroy democracy as we know it in this country, and I believe that the security of the Jewish people in America depends upon preservation of our basic freedoms.

Yours sincerely, Joachim Prinz[2]

 Max Boot is a conservative writer and intellectual (and Jewish immigrant) who was once a devoted darling of the right. Boot has despaired at the Republican party’s embrace of racism and authoritarianism under Trump, and has left the party. Now, in retrospect, Boot traces the origins of the Republican embrace of racism and abandonment of democracy to the campaign of Barry Goldwater—something that Prinz understood in 1964.[3]

 Perhaps Prinz understood what Goldwater really represented because he had witnessed the downfall of democracy alongside the rise of racism and anti-Semitism in Germany, which he left in 1937. In Germany, when Prinz presided over the funeral of a dear friend who had been murdered by anti-Semitic thugs, he had said, “I hereby bury German civilization.”

 To Prinz, it was no “divisiveness” to say from the pulpit that the rise of a politician supported by racists meant the downfall of American civilization and democracy, on which the survival of the Jews and other minorities depended. It was his obligation as a clergyman to tell his people the truth.














[1] “Rabbi Prinz Hits Barry,” Sept 26, 1964, Newark Evening News  

[2] February, 1965, correspondence of Rabbi Prinz and Barry Goldwater, American Jewish Archives, Prinz collection

[3] Max Boot. The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right, 2018