Focus 580; Broken Alliance: The Turbulent Times Between Blacks and Jews in America
Lions It's an interesting one because the author Jonathan Kaufman has chosen to write the book in the form of serial biography that is he uses the story of five individuals and one family half black and half-Jewish and uses the lives and activities of these people to chart the course of black Jewish relations over the past 30 years. He also says that while he is a political story it's also a very personal one that what he was trying to do is come to understand why that alliance between blacks and Jews touched people so deeply why it created such hope and why it produced so much anger and bitterness as it collapsed and again the book is broken alliance. Mr. Kaufman's joining us this morning by telephone. Good morning. Good morning how are you. Good thank you. Pleased that you could be with us. Nice to be with you. I'd like to start off by asking you a question that you really posed in the introduction to the book and that is why it matters why. Why should anybody care about blacks and Jews.
The fact that there once was this alliance and then that that was followed by this falling out. Well I think there are couple of reasons I think one of the reasons that you know we tend to forget the countries change so dramatically in the past 25 years I think we we tend to forget what this country was like back in the late 1950s and early 1960s when there were still segregation in the south when it was still a very hard place not only produce to live because of bigotry and anti-Semitism but still existed but really for. Many people who didn't fit in and the Civil Rights Movement I think change this country in an extraordinary way. And after all the bitterness that has grown up between blacks and Jews what these two groups did back in the back in the early 60s I think changed the way that all of us live today. And so I think the alliance in its break up is important because in a sense it's as blacks and Jews have broken up they've been innervated liberal causes. They have clearly caused tremendous strains in the Democratic Party. I think from a purely pragmatic point of view we see now with the strains inside the Democratic Party between Jews and Jesse Jackson that
unless they're able to reach some sort of accommodation they may well you know rip the Democratic Party apart. The other part which I think is he's in a sense is equal. It's important to remember that this country is getting more diverse not less diverse. I mean we've seen that now with a tremendous influx of Asians and Hispanics coming to this country you can go to places like California for example and and it seems that you know soon there will be no majority population and whites will make up 40 percent blacks 20 percent Hispanics 20 percent Asians 10 percent and so forth. So I think that for all the kind of trouble that blacks and Jews have had that I talk about extensively in broken Alliance over the past 20 years we have to remember that these two groups created something unusual a true interracial coalition. And I think if we can understand what it was that brought these groups together and then what went wrong. It may be able to give us lessons for the whole country about how different groups can work together and what different groups have to do as well as all the various parts of the quilt that.
Country is becoming too good to live and work together in the next 20 or 30 years. You know in the first part of the book you tell the story of two men in this way as you're talking about the period of cooperation in the early or the early phases of the civil rights movement and you talk about a Jewish lawyer named Jack Greenberg who for a long time was the head the head of the ACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. I think he succeeded Thurgood Marshall right in that position. And I guess the thing that strikes me about him and also I think is true of the other man that you profile a black civil rights activist named Paul parks is that somehow they saw the civil rights struggle as being everyone's struggle there. That is that is moving towards an America where there was greater freedom and individual liberty was a would be a good thing for everybody. Well that particular you know black both blacks and Jews that seem to
see both see themselves in each other as a people that were oppressed in some perhaps similar ways. Well I think that's true of one of the most powerful stories I think I tell in the book is one that. Parks tells me that in 19 in 1945 Paul Parkes was in the army. He's a he's an engineer he's black. But even though he's trained as an engineer the army is still segregated in 1945 and blacks are at the very bottom of the hierarchy they're in charge of sort of scut work they say they run the bulldozers and the tractors and so forth. So in 1945 when Paul park's unit is on the outskirts of Munich you received word that their next morning they're going to be going into an army camp called. The public doesn't really know it Doc. How is he assumes it's some sort of an army camp and. And he doesn't quite know why his unit is going to be going in first because usually for any sort of an action like that that the white infantry groups would go and of course the next morning he discovers why his unit is set in
first because edition to be the people who run the bulldozers and build the bridges the black units are also the burial squad. And and they go in and they see that incident that the bodies lying around in the concentration camp and and parks are stunned by what he seen he can't figure out why these people are there and why there's so much death and so much suffering and death. A few hours later another army company comes in with a chaplain a rabbi and park says to him Why are these people here what did they do with a with a prisoner. Because they're Christian. New uniforms and the rabbi says no they didn't do anything. And Park said but there must be some reason why they were put here. And the rabbi says well they were put here just because they were Jews. And Parks who's 20 years old at that point sits down on the ground and he says well I understand that because I've seen people lynched just because they're black. And so I think you're right I think that much of what brought blacks and Jews together in those early civil rights days was the sense that they shared a common enemy that bigotry and
prejudice was what's harmful not only to blacks but to Jews as well. Jack Greenberg who as you point out was for 25 years the head of the interval a sleepy Legal Defense Fund and probably after Thurgood Marshall one of the greatest civil rights lawyers of that entire time used to say over and over again this is not a Negro problem it's a human problem. And I think in a way that's also part of the leadership of the civil rights movement you know we tend sometimes to maybe romanticize the early 1960s and say Well wasn't that a wonderful idealistic time of Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy. But it is hard for me to speak to blacks and Jews who lived through that time without getting a sense that it really was different and that one of the things that King and others did was to say that the civil rights move was not just a black cause but was an American Cause and was a patriotic cause and a religious cause that in one of things that's changed so sadly in this country over the past 25 years is that we seem to have lost that unity. In a country much more polarized people tend to have their own self-interest and follow the law. And I think that
that that really started in the late 1960s and black too is cooperation in a way a casualty of that. Yeah well these two men Greenberg and parks really seem to straddle the two eras. They in the sense had have one foot in the air of cooperation and one foot in the air of confrontation and I think of you know I think Greenberg is a good example because of the incident involving the his his being asked to teach a course on law and civil rights at Harvard. Right. He was asked I guess the people at Harvard decided that it was something that the University Law School should address and asked a rather prestigious black attorney Julius chambers if he would teach the Course Chambers said well I'm not sure I can make that commitment but I know someone that I could work with and perhaps we could teach it together and he suggested Greenberg and it was met with a great sort of anger by young black law students at the time who felt that. If anybody was going to teach a course like that it should be somebody who was black and it somehow is you know this was
representative of an emerging feeling among blacks apparently especially young blacks that that their struggle was their struggle and if anybody was going to lead it it should be a black person that somehow you know no matter what a what a white person had been through even a Jewish white person their experience was different and there was no way that they were going to understand what it was like to be black. Right I think it's true that that me of another issue in that whole struggle was the question of appointing more black faculty to Harvard I think a lot of the black students saw it as a delaying tactic that by bringing in someone like Jack Greenberg on a part time basis that it prevented Harvard from hiring more tenured black faculty. And I think you're right in the sense that in one man's life Jack Greenberg's life you really see the distance that blacks in. I have traveled from a time when when Jack Greenberg was on the front lines helping James Meredith get into the University of Mississippi and fighting for civil rights to a time when he comes to Harvard in 1982 and teaches a course on civil rights with with black students picketing outside in much the same way I think you're right
Paul Parker does straddle that area as well because after he leaves the Army gets very involved in civil rights works with Martin Luther King fights for desegregation here in Boston of the schools and always find that Jews are on his side. But in 1988 after King is killed there are riots here in Boston and black students begin rampaging through through the black neighborhoods here and singling out Jewish stores and attacking stores that are owned by Jews and parks leases desk. Rushes down to get to that neighborhood and barricade himself in front of the hardware store of a Jewish friend of his and Paul parks can understand what's happening and it doesn't make sense to him from his experience that young blacks are not singling out Jews but they're riding that they're at they're turning against whites in this way. But of course one of the things that happened in the late 1960s and this in a way sort of the middle section of my book with the rise of black power and the changing focus of the black struggle is that is that many blacks do begin to feel that that they want more control over the direction of
the civil rights movement they begin to ask for different things. And you know they very often don't want to use are whites around them. They want to control their own struggle. You know our guest this morning on focus Jonathan Kaufman we're talking about his book Broken Alliance the turbulent times between blacks and Jews in America. If you're interested in being a part of the conversation we welcome that here in Champaign-Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. Toll free in Illinois. 800 2 2 2 9 4 5 5. We do have a caller on the toll free line who's been waiting for a bit so we'll bring them into the conversation right now. Hello. Hello. Yes I'm a graduate of Roosevelt University here in Chicago and I also hung out in the civil rights of these movements and I've. Think the thing that didn't surprise me about the turn that we both saw from black and Jewish cooperation. The thing that did not surprise me is that it happened because I think what your guest may have
missed is the the lodger historical picture. I'm basically a person who was raised as a Catholic I hated that early on. But I saw some of the meanness of spirit that the Catholics had. And a couple of characteristic statements Christ killers and things like that that I saw and rebelled against. And I think that we have created blacks literally in our own image. In other words we give them a Christian faith that emphasizes that Christ killer attitude. And I don't know that we can expect anything but the logical conclusion of that to resolve the debt at the other words acting on those given assumptions. Blacks are doing exactly what whites have done for thousands of years in other countries as well as here and in my part of the civil rights movement with both the Roosevelt and hang around in Hyde Park at the University of Chicago area.
I found it was always the most liberal Christian churches particularly the American Friends Service Committee or the Quakers who did the most during the civil rights movement and next to them were the Unitarians and some of the other you know they're not necessarily a Christian group. Several that I saw a great lack of support from the traditional fundamentalist Protestant Orac. Organizations like the Catholic Church through the whole period but only much later in the movement. Did you see a few nuns Daniel Berrigan for instance was always an outcast in his own face for his real support of the civil rights and peace movement. And I think rights clearly like Christians those. That's Christianity better not that the blame not the blacks the blame lies with standard Christian. Under current teaching I call it and there is
that clearly in Catholicism definitely. Christ killer I heard that more than once in my eight years in the elementary school and elsewhere. Yeah I think I think you're right but I think it's a bit more complex than that I mean one of the things I discovered in writing broken a line sort of looking at the history between these two groups is that is that while it's true that blacks did growing up in the South you know have many of those those anti-Jewish images from Christianity there was also a whole body of very positive images from Christianity for slaves down south for example the whole the whole exodus story the story of the Jews leaving Egypt was was the most powerful story for most for most blacks A growing up south if you can look at the names of most black churches Ebenezer Baptist Church about Bethel Baptist Church. These are old testament needs. And I think that that for blacks growing up in the south they had a very powerful connection with Jews because the story that resonated most strongly with them was the story of Jews and slaves in Egypt and and leaving there and and of course you know the
first great protest song it's a song that you sing at Passover as well which is Go Down Moses tell Pharaoh to let my people go. I think as James Baldwin and others have written text. Uncivilly these images almost existed side by side in Plaquemine. It was interesting I was I was talking to a black anthropology professor a very well-known one and sociologist I think Claire Drake was down in the 70s and he told the story of walking through Virginia back in 1900 20s I guess with his grandmother and the Jewish family in town was the only family that would ever invite them up on their veranda on a hot day to have to have a cool drink. But at the same time Drake said it was common practice that when he went back home that the family would talk about Jews over charging them in their stores and so forth. So I think in both religion economics sort of a whole range of areas the blacks had very almost at times contradictory but certainly very ambivalent views of Jews and I think it's especially true in. The religious context. And so I don't I think that the
role of Christian anti-Semitism is clearly important but I would argue that to the black power movement and the disputes we see more recently between Jews and Jesse Jackson and so forth I think it's really much more a struggle over over power. It's really an effort by blacks and Jews that blacks and Jews now have conflicts of interest on a whole range of issues. Israel the Middle East affirmative action we sort of go down the list. And I think that religion may play a part in it but I think for many blacks it also it also played a positive role in those early days especially I guess I'm still left with the feeling that if it's true that the ties were so between blacks and Jews were so deep how did the relationship seem to come apart so easily. Well I think if anything I mean I think what I think the ties appeared quite deep and at some level were about I think there are a lot of factors that led to them. You know blacks and Jews I think were brought together almost by. Affecting agendas. If you look at the late 1950s I mean it was still a time when there were neighborhoods that Jews could move into what
jobs they couldn't hold the Holocaust was still a very recent memory for many Jews. And so when Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement comes along and talks about a movement that it's going to knock down barriers of discrimination and open up to society. Jews respond to that and they respond to it out of a very positive enlightened self-interest because they know that well well that will be good for blacks. It will also be good for Jews blacks I think historically really for more than more than 100 years had been divided. Moving back and forth about strategies of dealing with white society to you go the more separatist route the more nationalistic roots people like Marcus Garvey or Malcolm X suggested or you go more integration Mr. cosmopolitan rooted as Martin Luther King and others propose for reasons internal to the black community I think starting after the Second World War that that integration strain rises to the fore you have blacks reaching out for white allies and then Jews are wonderful allies if you're looking for white allies. So this kind of common interest brings blacks in.
Used together but starring the late 1960s those interests begin to diverge. These days on issues that both sides feel very passionately about like Israel like affirmative action like Israel's ties to South Africa like the significance of Jesse Jackson black and Jewish interests are no longer the same but that natural coming together no longer exists. I also think that blacks and Jews had very high expectations of each other. My Since I'm talking to blacks or broken alliances that they never really expected very much from white people but they did expect more from Jews in part because of the history of Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement in the end of the late Sepi going back to almost the turn of the century by some of the personal encounters they had and by the astonishing commitment that you showed to civil rights a ballpark said to me at one point he said you know I knew three kinds of people growing up black people white people and Jewish people and Jews were the good white people. So when when Jews begin to move away from the civil rights struggle in the late 1960s I think
blacks are very angry. They somehow feel that they've been betrayed. Blacks Jews for their part I think were long conditioned to worry about anti-Semitism from the right but begin to be very worried when they see attacks on Jews and attacks on Israel coming from black groups from the left starting in the late 1960s. So in a sense this is the sort of same passion. Commitment that brought blacks and Jews together when it began to fall apart that that passion sort of turned into anger. And I think that's one of the reasons why there's so much bitterness today when it seems you know another another section of your book you talk about the the conflict that in part what came out of the The New York City school strike and it's sort of complicated again a complicated bit of history to explain but I guess in short I would say I think I could also understand there being some resentment by blacks towards Jews because there have been instances where I think Jews have
used generally anti-Semitism in general and black anti-Semitism in particular as a as a kind of political weapon that they try to use their own advantage. Well what happened here what happened in your school strike in 1968 the ocean hope Brownsville controversy is that basically if the person I focus on to tell that story is rosy McCoy who was the black head at that district is that you have a point. Black school to shoot New York where kids there are doing very badly they're underachieving and they're barely getting an education at all. And black parents and people in the community want to have more of a say over how their kids are taught what they're taught sort of more control over the school system. So with the cooperation of the Board of Education they set up this experimental school district in ocean help Brownsville and Rosie McCloy is brought in Rosie McCloy who's been a follower of Malcolm X who comes in and tries to try to turn that district around. Well one of the things he discovers is that is that his opponents when he tries to fire teachers or or change things are not bigoted white southerners or southern
sheriffs with police dogs they're Jews middle class Jewish teachers that the teachers in New York are overwhelmingly Jewish at that time. Many of these teachers were liberal they had marched down south and they saw these change that's threatening their own livelihood their jobs their security. What happens midway during the strike is that that someone it is later determined some sort of fringe element of the black community put anti-Semitic leaflets in some of the teacher's boxes up in of Brownsville. And the teachers union then reprints those by the hundreds of thousands and distributes them all around New York and the strike explodes into a into a debate over black anti-Semitism and Jewish racism. I agree with you that I think in the end the decision by Albert Shanker and the teachers union New York to reprint those leaflets and focus on the issue of black. But Semitism was tactically a brilliant move. In other words it clearly shifted the debate from one over education to one over black anti-Semitism. But I think in its consequences for New York and for for black Jewish relations it was
devastating. I don't think the Yorks has ever recovered from the teacher strike I don't think black Jewish relations ever have either. And the bitterness that lingers from that strike I think it still is still quite prevalent. And I must say I think that the issue of black anti-Semitism and I've been doing a great deal of speaking about about the book about broken alliance and about this whole issue over the past few weeks. And I'm asked constantly by Jewish groups about Black anti-Semitism is there a rise of black anti-Semitism of concern obviously in Chicago recently when when Steve Coakley made those comments about Jewish doctors injecting the AIDS virus to black babies I'm scared many Jews and Jewish groups Roys asking me well are blacks more anti-Semitic especially in universities is there a rising tide of black anti-Semitism in universities. One of the points I try to make is that I think Jews have to differentiate between black anti-Semitism which I. Think represents a small segment of the black community. I think clearly Farrakhan is anti-Semitic and so forth. And a much larger number of blacks who I think are hostile to Jews because they
feel that Jews are in turn hostile to their interests. But you can be a black in Chicago and see that Jews are hostile to Jesse Jackson. They are. They're opposed to affirmative action. They're on the other side of questions of the Middle East. And because of this tangled history that we've talked about I think many blacks say look I just don't like Jews I can't deal with them. I just have nothing in common with. That's different I think than anti-Semitism in part because I think it's very hard to have a conversation or a dialogue or a meeting of the minds with someone you consider anti-semitic. It would be hard to do that with someone you consider racist. So I think there is a way in which we have to lower the level of rhetoric between blacks and Jews and try to figure out what are genuine conflicts of interest that blacks and Jews can talk about and try to hammer out some working arrangement. And what and what may be sort of more fringe or irrational elements of the black community may be anti-Semitic. One of the you know one of the people I profile in the
book quite I think is very important is Donna Brazil young black woman who worked for Dukakis in the last campaign and became famous because she made some comments about George Bush's personal life and had to step down from the from the Dukakis campaign. But I think also made very astute. It's about racism in the Bush campaign. I focused on Donna Brazil because I wanted to hear what what a young black woman thought of this alliance. Part of that whole question of black too is cooperation and I think what's clear from talking to her and the other younger blacks is that you know many blacks say look we're willing to have an alliance but it has to be an alliance of equals. Donna Brazil said to me I'm willing to work with anybody but my top priority to do what's best for black people. Those are conflicts of interest and and they're going to have to be to go she added That is going to be a lot of dialogue about. But I think that we all benefit from kind of lowering the level of rhetoric that tends to surround these encounters and sort of stop hurling insults at each other and maybe try to figure out a little bit why the other person is feeling the pain.
You know we're here about midway through the program we're talking with Jonathan Kaufman about the relationship between blacks and Jews in America. He's written a book about that that's recently come out. This is focused on a video telephone talk show My name is David Inge. We're talking this morning with Jonathan Kaufman. He's a reporter for The Boston Globe who has written extensively on black Jewish issues and he's the author of a recently published book on that topic. The title of his book is broken alliance we have callers here would like to be a part of the conversation so we'll get right back to the phones starting with someone on our toll free line parallel. Yes hello I'm calling me gagging him here. Yes. People are calling me. Anyway. And saying I went to the Catholic School for 12 years and never heard heard a word there against the Jewish people. Like all religion is based and teaches you. Jesus was a very gentle person with
in fact taking away and the angry mob took him to thank him. I guess I've never heard anything against the Jewish people even a deuce of a time I thought I had. OK. Any comment on that. Well no I think I think that you know there is there is there's clearly been a strain of teaching in many many Christian Catholics and others that have been that have been muted since Vatican 2 I think it's one of things the Pope could try to do is to to change some of the historical historical teachings about two things that many Christians heard you know. And I think you know I think it's good if the caller was never exposed to that and I think that we have to be honest and understand that in this country still there are people who don't like blacks who don't like to use them you don't like Catholics. I mean you're still a great deal of resentment and prejudice in this country I think but the rise of groups like the Aryan Nation the skinheads are one manifestation of that. I guess what I think is important about this black Jewish Alliance
and the stories they tell in my book is that despite the fact that blacks and Jews in a way did come from very different backgrounds did have very different ways of looking at the world. They were able to work together and to an understanding that I think as they said earlier is important because it's the country becomes more diverse you know we're all going to be facing those sorts of challenges you know. Let's take another caller here line number one. Hello heifer thoughtlessly that come in the last caller. For those who were raised with. Let's end it with a Christian teaching or supposedly Christian teaching like remind them that they they should know that UFO's were meant to do. But aside from that is the question a bit out of. Ignorance but it sounds me from what you're saying so far that there is a difference in Jewish black relationships between them in the south and then in the cities of the North was it isn't so. Is it because of their history was their history different. Is there a look on things different.
Well I think it was I think and the fact is that is that down south there were very few Jews down south and so I think the way that that many blacks got to know Jews down south was it was true the Bible was true the stories they heard about the exodus and so forth. It was through the kind of positive word of mouth of Jews being involved in the civil rights movement. And it was through exposure to choose which very often during the civil rights movement most of the Jews who went down south Jews made up two thirds to three quarters of the whites who went south during the Freedom Rides and during the voter registration drives of 1964 they were deeply involved in all aspects of the civil rights movement. Most of the juice most of those issues tend to be very liberal even left wing and I think for especially blacks in the civil rights movement the Jews they met really represented a sort of extraordinary political awareness. I think that what happens with the civil rights movement comes north is that blacks and Jews meet on a different battleground. Clearly in northern cities in Chicago New
York everywhere blacks and Jews had had lived and worked often side by side in ghettos CUSIP had a number of stories and been in ghettos and black very often resented what they felt were high prices. The fact that Jews were landlords I mean someone said the 1060 that of the five people that are black in a northern ghetto met during the course of a day the store owner the landlord the social worker the teacher and the cop for were Jewish and one the cop was Irish. I think that was true and I think that that for many blacks growing up in a ghetto you could look. Around and see that it seemed like you know Jews controlled everything and it is an unequal distribution of power in those situations. Another thing that really hasn't been talked about a lot which I devote sort of I think in a way one of my best chapters in my book too is that the whole question of neighborhoods changing in the late 1960s neighborhood after neighborhood in big cities in this country changed from largely Jewish to largely black. I tell that story to a family in Chicago the Epstein's who were committed to a
liberal's they marched with Martin Luther King when he comes to Chicago in 1966. And they're committed that they're going to live in an integrated neighborhood that their kids will live there as well. One of the things they discover is that as more and more blacks begin to move into their neighborhood in Chicago the Jews begin to leave the streets become more dangerous. The schools that appear right there synagogue moved out of out of out of town and their Jewish community center closes. And finally one of their children comes home after having been beaten up at a hockey rink and said you know mom and dad you believe this integration stuff but but we're living it. I think that the encounters between blacks and Jews in the north very often were very troublesome and I think that what happens with the civil rights movement when it begins to take a more northern focus after 65 when the struggle moves north is that a lot of those abrasions come to the surface and I think it it really is the time when when when black to a shoelace. It's really begin to hit the rocks
because there is a sense that those kind of encounters breed a certain amount of anger and bitterness from both sides. Well do you think you know I wonder whether you think that there is more there's more anger and bitterness on one side or another it's fairly equal. I sort of get the impression that many Jewish people feel that they are you know especially looking at the history of their involvement in the civil rights movement. There are a lot of Jewish people who feel that they're really the aggrieved party that somehow they they did everything they could they. They saw it as a as a struggle of everybody and that somehow for all of the effort that they put into it they got slapped in the face. Well I think I think frankly there's an equal amount of anger on both sides in fact at one point I thought of calling my book instead of broken alive. I thought of calling it it's their fault because that's going to be opposed very often to view it. No I think that I think that you certainly feel that way but I think many blacks feel that Hughes somehow left the movement when it got a little too close for comfort that in other words I mean it's interesting when I speak to
blacks and Jews about that golden era of cooperation those early days of the 60s that Paul parked exactly for its part. Just to be very to static about that time on the blacks by and large or not because I think many blacks resented the kind of paternalism that they felt hovered over those early encounters. And I think that that one Black Power began to arise many blacks I spoke to for the book felt that the Jews of all people should understand why blacks would want to control their own organizations why they would want to control the direction of the civil rights movement. And many blacks are very angry when would you take that personally and they begin to leave and resign discussed. Many blacks say they say to me that that somehow Jews only wanted to be part of the civil rights movement when when they could when they could benefit from it or when they could control it. When I speak before black and Jewish groups actually I find it's almost like it's almost like the fundamentalist churches where people stand up and testify. Usually blacks and Jews stand up and tell very personal stories often very painful stories about how they
felt. So I think both sides feel quite aggrieved in this and that's one reason why when I I think about this issue and talk about it. Talk about the book. I think in some ways it may really lie in that younger generation of black people like Donna Brazil who were too young to march with Martin Luther King to try to restart the life together because I think there is a lot of anger a lot of hurt feelings a lot of baggage that many blacks and Jews have carried from the 60s and early 70s and that it may really be better for the younger generation to talk about it because they can talk about it perhaps in less emotional. Yeah. Well my phone lines are full I have several people who'd like to join us so let's go right back to the phones then. Lie number two is our next person. Good morning. I live like to point out I guess and have your reactions that there are still quite a few American Jews that share. Well actually I was thinking of Arthur can no I who is still in involved in the Rainbow Coalition and
they still see a shared interest and I still feel that they are marginalized community and in this culture and that it's important for you know it's not a matter of we're helping them it's a matter of a coalition that that still does exist to some extent. Another thing is and I don't know waive any followup since you have a full full house is I see the anti-Semitism in the Bush campaign the way that was such a non issue and the way that it anti-Semitism in in the Rainbow Coalition quote unquote point where it's actually anti Israeli policy. The fact that that is such a major issue is it shows that it's really it's fairly manipulative and it's it's a non-issue for some political reasons. And it sort of since it's not even handed. Attack on anti-Semitism and it makes one wonder about it sincerely and in a lot of levels
so if you could comment on that. Sure. I decide the second question first. I mean I think that that much of that is tied to what I said earlier about many Jews sort of expecting anti-Semitism from the right but being surprised when it comes from the left I think the fact is is that most Jews still feel the Democratic Party is their home and the fact that there would be anti-Semitism the Republican Party I think well it troubled many Jews. Somehow I didn't surprise them I think that that what they see in the Jackson campaign the Rainbow Coalition is the fear that somehow that they will not be welcome in the Democratic party either I think that explains part of the part of the reaction there but it is true that many blacks said to me what I've spoken about what I've spoken about the book. You know why is it that you seem much more worried about someone like Louis Farrakhan than about Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell people who the fundamentalists clearly you know could pose real challenges to Jews and that sort of the diversity and pluralism of this country. It is true as you were saying in the first part of your comment that there are Jews who are still part of the
Rainbow Coalition in fact many of Jesse Jackson's key advisers are Jewish in the last campaign his campaign manager was jewish his issues coordinator was Jewish. There were a number of Jews there. I would argue that those Jews while that while they are Jews do not represent sort of how most Jews feel. The fact is that Jesse Jackson got I believe as much as 20 percent of the white vote during the Democratic primaries but only 3 percent of the Jewish vote. I think most Jews are actually not only I don't disagree with Jackson but are are in fact quite afraid of him. One of the surprising things I've discovered in talking about broken alliance to traveling the country over the past few weeks is the genuine fear that many Jews have about Jackson and his power. It's not just that they feel he is somehow if they disagree with him it's deep. Private What is it. There Fleta Well I think they're free to think they think they're afraid First of all that his positions on Israel and his his support of Palestinian rights will well apparel
that the security the state of Israel. I think they're troubled by his willingness as they see it to come down strongly against Farrakhan and to speak out against about comments like that I mean Jackson has denounced Barcott comments but is that he will not repudiation Farrakhan Personally I think it's a distinction that that troubles me to understand why he's why he's doing that. I think it rude basically Jews don't trust Jesse Jackson. I very often to black audiences compare it to if if Ronald Reagan stood up on Sunday and gave a speech saying he now supported affirmative action was going to cut off all aid to South Africa and so forth I think a lot of blacks would say well what's he really up to. I think many Jews feel the same way towards Jackson that there's just a level of mistrust which goes beyond the Hymie Town remarks and so forth and really it's very hard I think for them to hear what Jackson has to say without wondering if he sincere about it. Yeah. We have about 10 minutes left. Our guest is Jonathan Kaufman the author of the book Broken the
Lions the turbulent times between blacks and Jews in America. We'll go on to another caller. One in Number Three our next person. Hello hello. Yes you know I came into the program on it. What I don't know if anybody really talked about this but you know I can understand the divide between blacks and Jews. Before the end of the 60s shortly before I was born in 1950 my father moved to a New York suburb and he had wanted to do that for many years but it includes continues until about 1950. There were no Jews allowed. There were found on various train lines the Long Island proudly announced the community no Jews in black but he was one of the first Jewish people to move into this particular suburb I remember when I was applying for colleges. Many of my friends also found that there were informal quotas at certain press these universities a certain number of tunes only when in fact New York University used to call it and why do
because all the other kids couldn't get into Columbia because of their informal quota would go to NYU have called and wanted to. And so it's you know seems very natural but you know there was an alliance to you know expand civil rights because it did affect the Jews and I I just wonder if what's happening now is just the effect of Americans notoriously short historical memory. Well I think that's precisely right is that as we were saying earlier that it was this sense that I think many Jews had that well the civil rights movement would benefit blacks who would also benefit Jews as well and you know Jews in a sense. I mean I think one of the things that troubles many blacks I mean this is brought up recently when I talked about the book in New Orleans was that many blacks were saying you know why is it that Jews never talk about how the Civil Rights Movement benefited them. I think what you're talking about is part of that I think that the black power movement in many ways opens up the way for all American ethnic groups to rediscover their heritage. There's an explosion after the Black Power movement
of Jewish Studies Hispanic studies women studies and so forth affirmative action I mean while many Jews have opposed it some of the biggest beneficiaries have been Jewish women who have been able to move into law and medical school because of affirmative action. I think you're right I think that that the historical the lack of historical memory especially people younger blacks and Jews is quite profound I was at Yale recently giving a speech to a young Jewish student probably 21 years. Bill came up to me and said you know my parents tell me about all the Civil Rights Coalition about Schwerner Chaney and Goodman those three civil rights workers two Jews in the black who were killed in 1964. It's about the only way I really know blacks to affirmative action and I know it's going to be harder for me to get into law school because I'm going to be competing against blacks. When I speak to younger blacks too I mean they have a sense that either jews have just become white and they're just part of the power structure or they know Jews in the context of opposing Jesse Jackson criticizing Farrakhan and so forth. So I think that that the country as a whole and especially the younger generation of blacks and Jews have
forgotten what this alliance was about what it accomplished. And it's one of the things we have to do I mean this is a wonderful program out of Philadelphia run by Congressman Bill Graves the congressman down there and he basically takes younger black and Jewish students. A high school student student council president people like that and he takes the first two to Senegal so they could see where the slavery began where the ships left from then to Israel and then to Atlanta to the Martin Luther King Center to talk about the civil rights movement. I think problems like that are terrific because it really gives blacks and Jews a chance to learn about their own history to learn about each other's history to learn together and teach each other and I think that we need more programs like that and more outreach like that too to allow it to force blacks and Jews to remember what it was they shared in common and what they were able to do with me when they worked together. Let's take another caller here we'll go to our toll free line. Hello and hello. I would like to introduce the Kremas. First I want to start with that I am not Jewish and I'm not black. I think we're talking
about a discriminatory process that is one and that there's two different types of discrimination in my opinion one that evolved out of a sense of jealousy. And the other one that has a condensation to it whether we're you consider yourself better than. And the Jewish image and black game image is not the same in this category. I think the Japanese are very close to timing and to the Jewish there. You have succeeded in the march. Place you had SIX SIX SIX SIX SIX seeded markedly academically professionally so as a consequence the discrimination that exists against the Jews is one of jealousy. I think that white America as a whole considers themselves better than Unfortunately the black man. Now the
black man is being reminded that the Jews have succeeded and he perhaps their success is not as obvious. And I think as a consequence he's joining the ranks of the whites from the standpoint of his own sense of defensiveness. Now do you think there's any rationality there. Well I mean there's so much think there are some elements to that I think it's certainly I mean I guess the way I would put it is that I think many blacks are looking at your success in this country. This sort of say well you know if we started out on the barricades together in the early 1960s how computers done so well and in fact by and large have not although I know many blacks have but clearly as a group blacks not so I think there is sort of an element of envy I guess I would call it that. I think though that in a way the sort of the way blacks and Jews look at each other blind them to the realities of this country I think that that one I think if you like Henry Kissinger shuttling between
black and Jewish groups and other groups to try to explain people to each other. One of the things I try to say to blacks and to other non-Jews is that Jews are historically and secure. I mean the fact that you're doing well in this country I think makes it did somehow masks the sense that you still feel that that their well-being is not assured Jews are doing very well in Germany before the Holocaust very well in Spain before the Inquisition so that even the blacks are sometimes puzzled why are choose worried about blacks. But but Jews by definition worry about their status in the society even if they're doing very well. I think on the other side I think Jews like many whites still don't understand the reality of what. If I could be black in this country and I think that there is a chance of it which most whites have ever got a kind of struggle that blacks have had to face and still have to face. So I guess I would I would interpret it somewhat differently but I think there are there are a number of things you're saying which which are quite true that. But there is a way in which the two sides because they they may
have a different way of looking at the world may bring that to bear and maybe look at me look at the same issues or even a completely different way. We only have a couple of minutes left and I have two callers holding Unfortunately we won't be able to take both of them would I will I will get one of them up here on line number one. Hello. Yes hello. I wanted to suggest that beyond the. Jewish Mother controlling the black rights I'm going to say since Centrum that you suggested in the end he and other such beings to somehow simply a minority that is more available to criticism violence is still in this country and everywhere else in the world then would be the white majority. And in the self-assertion especially among the younger black it is simply easy to direct the anger
that some anomaly it simply has fewer hard consequences right and going on again. Well I think that's true I think that many I think many many do certainly feel that way and I guess my my feeling is and I feel this way having written the book and having spoke to black and Jewish groups extensively in the past month or so I saw many things blacks and Jews are so good at fighting with each other that they've become like boxers in an arena sort of very good at it it's pounding each other solar plexus and finding each other's weak points and I think in doing that in picking on each other the way they do they sometimes forget who's in the grandstand watching very often as people in the grandstand or people who don't like blacks or Jews. There are people who thrive on black Jewish division who relish the way It enervates the Democratic Party and hurts progressive causes. And I guess my hope is that at some point blacks and Jews will put down their boxing gloves long enough to say well who really benefits from it. Does it really help both of us to to hammer away at each other. Or is there a way we can still unite and find common agendas to try to move this country
forward and make it a better place not only for blacks and Jews but but for everyone. I do want to try and I do have there one last person if they can make their comments brief will will get him in here before we have to finish here on line number two. Since you mentioned slavery and ancient history well. Involved with the accidents and the slavery of. Tuesday I would like to remind you. An aspect of Jewish history that perhaps you're not aware of and that is that the Saudi Jews who were expelled by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain in 14 92 after much persecution. The Saudis who moved to New Amsterdam and later New York later called Hard big established their wealth on slaves turned on the Roman slave trade between Africa and
the West Indies. And they're after him transported slaves to the south. Yeah well no I mean I know there were there were Jews who would obviously trade there are rich would rob the slave trade. I guess my feeling is an answer the point of my book is that is that this whole question of black Jewish relations is really an American problem. And I think that that's the way to solve it the way to bring blacks and Jews together is to focus on this country and focus on on the sort of disputes and disagreements that blacks and Jews have here and by working those out as difficult as they may be. I think there may be a way to try to bring these groups together. That's been my focus in writing the book and I think it really is the way for those who want to bring back together to begin. Well I wish we had more time unfortunately we'll just have to leave it at that. It's it's quite an interesting book. I appreciate you spending the time with us this morning. Thanks very much enjoyed it. And for those who are interested in reading more about this I suggest you take a look at the book Our guest has written.
- Focus 580
- Contributing Organization
- WILL Illinois Public Media (Urbana, Illinois)
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- With Jonathan Kaufman (Author)
- Talk Show
- african-american; Race/Ethnicity; race-ethnicity; Religion
- Media type
Guest: Kaufman, Jonathan
Host: Inge, David
Producer: Brighton, Jack
Producer: Brighton, Jack
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Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: cpb-aacip-0d499362009 (unknown)
Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: cpb-aacip-28edb8cd4c4 (unknown)
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- Chicago: “Focus 580; Broken Alliance: The Turbulent Times Between Blacks and Jews in America,” 1988-12-02, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 20, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-16-2n4zg6gb97.
- MLA: “Focus 580; Broken Alliance: The Turbulent Times Between Blacks and Jews in America.” 1988-12-02. WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 20, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-16-2n4zg6gb97>.
- APA: Focus 580; Broken Alliance: The Turbulent Times Between Blacks and Jews in America. Boston, MA: WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-16-2n4zg6gb97