Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert E. Asher
ASHER: You mean, in addition to girls? I was member of the Writers Club, I was on tennis squad, I was the business manager of the Annual. In retrospect, though I didn't realize it at the time, there was some evidence that Jews weren't fully accepted at the school, although they were there in substantial numbers. One reason I say that is because the editor of the yearbook and the business manager were named by the faculty adviser. They were not elected. For the four years that I can remember, they had only Jewish business managers and not a single Jewish editor. Although given my academic record and so on, it was just as clear that I could have been named editor instead of business manager. In fact, I had no talents for business management and no real interest, although I accepted the assignment as a kind of honor and I worked hard at it. I think the record sort of indicates that the authorities believed the school wasn't ready for a Jewish editor.
I'll tell you who was in the class behind me; it was Edward Levi, who later became Dean of the Law School, President of the University, Attorney General of the U.S., and so on. He was a good friend of mine, a very sensitive young man. He started his own literary magazine at high school when he wasn't named editor of the yearbook.
Q: Did you feel any development, anti-Semitism may be too strong a word, but a concern about Jewishness after Leopold-Loeb, since both of them came from a Jewish family? I thought this might have raised...?
ASHER: It did, it raised sensitivity levels pretty high, particularly in the Jewish community. This was terrible. Even going so far as to say, fortunately it was a Jewish boy that got murdered. This was a kind of thought that went through the community. They figured anti-Semitism would have been stimulated if two rich Jewish boys had murdered a Christian.
I don't think that I suffered any discrimination in my whole later life. My father said to me “A number of children in your high-school class have parents who are members of the South Shore Country Club. The South Shore Country Club does not take Jews, Catholics or Blacks, and I wouldn't want you to go there, particularly to mislead your friends by accepting an invitation.” Hence I knew that there would be parties to which I wouldn't be invited or wouldn't go if invited. At school there were groups within groups, in which Jewish boys and girls seemed to have their own friends. The resultant criticism was analogous to that now made of blacks in colleges: that they stay together. But they know each other, their families know each other. And they feel comfortable together.