On Tuesday, April 4, the “Revisiting the Black-Jewish Alliance” panel was presented by the Department of Philosophy and World Religions and The Department of History. The panel was held at the Chamberlain Student Center from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. with students avidly listening to the two main presenters of this panel.
The first panelist, Chanelle Rose Ph.D., the associate professor of history, discussed the background of the Black-Jewish relationship. Rose described how the relationship between both groups had stemmed before World War II but when the war began it was amplified. They both were able to relate to the same struggles like being excluded from housing during World War II. In America, the Civil Rights Movement brought the two groups together. For example, Rose explained that rabbis spoke with Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington in 1963.
There was definitely support within the respective groups, but the Black-Jewish alliance became weakened. Rose made the point that Jewish people reacted negatively to the 1967 Race Riots because of the violence, but Jewish businesses being destroyed due to protestors is what they disliked the most. Jewish people began to discriminate against Black people residing in their shared community, whilst Black people indulged in antisemitic tropes. Rose closed her speech by introducing the way social media enhances antisemitism.
“Rather than just talking about how we feel about these issues, we need more dialogue to really hear each other,” Rose said.
David Weinfeld Ph.D., an assistant professor of religious studies and author of “An American Friendship,” was the next panelist who mainly spoke about how the oppression between both groups is still relevant today. Weinfeld used a recent example of how the media praised the University of Iowa’s star player Caitlin Clark for her personality but criticized Louisiana State University’s star player Angel Reese even though she displayed a similar personality and attitude.
Social media has allowed celebrities to gain more power, like Ye West, formally known as Kanye West. Weinfeld explained that Ye West’s antisemitic remarks created a shock for not just those of the Jewish community, but others too. Kyrie Irving also used his social media to discuss antisemitic values when he retweeted an antisemitic movie to all his followers.
Weinfeld believes that there are two main types of antisemitism. The first one is the antisemitism of difference, in which Jewish people are believed to be bad because they are different. The second one that he talked about is racial antisemitism, which stems from racial hate specifically towards Jewish people. While tensions are rising between Black and Jewish communities, the number of Black Jews is also increasing.
Weinfeld also spoke on what inspires him to educate the public about this issue.
“I think in particular, the story of Black-Jewish relations just has the kind of arc of triumph and tragedy that’s been kind of fascinating to me. But at the end of the day, it’s really about being able to learn about other people,” Weinfeld said.
The moderator for this event, Rowan history professor and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies Melissa Klapper, also provided attendees a bit of background on the Black-Jewish alliance.
Klapper explained how thrilled she was to be a part of this panel.
“I think it’s so important to look at the way that all kinds of cultural, interracial, interethnic, interreligious alliances,” Klapper said. “We need to understand our history to understand how to move forward.”