President, American Jewish Congress
|Rabbi Joachim Prinz was born in Germany where he was ordained at age 24 at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau. He quickly gained a reputation as a dynamic speaker and was called “the country’s most sought-after rabbi,” appealing especially to young people. He spoke out against Adolf Hitler early on, and was frequently arrested and harassed by the Gestapo for doing so.
Prinz was expelled from Germany in 1937 and immigrated to the United States. He gradually developed a reputation as a force in the Jewish community, first in his new home of Newark, New Jersey, and later on a national and international level. He raised money for displaced European Jewish families after World War II and held top leadership positions in the World Jewish Congress. He became president of the American Jewish Congress in 1958, and became deeply involved in the civil rights movement in the United States – a cause that was important to him partially because of his own experiences with discrimination. He participated in countless demonstrations, protesting everything from unequal employment to segregated schools and housing.
At the March on Washington Rabbi Prinz spoke about the danger of indifference and inaction in the face of injustice. “The most important thing that I learned under [Hitler] was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem,” he told the crowd. “The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence. America must not remain silent. Not merely black America , but all of America. It must speak up and act, from the president down to the humblest of us, and not for the sake of the Negro, not for the sake of the black community, but for the sake of the image, the idea and the aspiration of America itself.”