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Long History Of Black-Jewish Relations
Wed, 08/13/2014

Jonathan Mark’s “Freedom Summer Memories” (July 18) evoked recollections of a once powerful black-Jewish alliance. As a participant in this righteous struggle, I can testify to the accuracy of his narrative except for one assertion, namely, that this common effort was “beautiful” but tragically short.

In point of fact, Jewish philanthropists like the co-owner of Sears Roebuck, Julius Rosenwald, donated generous amounts of money to Negro (the appropriate rubric then) education over 100 years ago. The Spingarn brothers played a pivotal role in the creation of the NAACP back in 1909. Subsequently, lawyer Jack Greenberg served as chief counsel for the NAACP for many years. While it is true that this dynamic coalition was frayed during the turbulent years starting in the late 1960s, certain black leaders disavowed anti-Semitism despite confrontations over education in Brooklyn’s Ocean-Hill Brownsville School District. Baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson saved an elderly Jewish man from an angry mob in Harlem. In his New York Post column, he admonished Malcolm X for his diatribes against Jews. He wrote in defense of the Schiffman family: owners of the famous Apollo Theater. In his final book, a revised autobiography, “I Never Had It Made,” written with Alfred Duckett, Robinson supported a continuation of the black-Jewish alliance.

Fast-forward to the present and please note that the three Jewish members on the United Sates Supreme Court all manifest a consistent record in support of equal rights in their decisions, often in the minority. Witness [some of the Jewish advisers] behind the successful Obama election campaigns and his appointees to high office. The alleged death of that historic black-Jewish coalition, like the reported demise of Mark Twain during his still creative years, was premature. Let us not close the book on this historic friendship.

 

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