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The Black-Jewish Alliance

Recalling that MLK’s greatest allies were often rabbis

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Martin Luther King (center) and Abraham Joshua Heschel (second from right) at the 1965 Selma march.(Wikipedia)

As Martin Luther King Day approaches and as we prepare for the 50th anniversaries of the civil rights movement’s seminal moments—beginning, this year, with the semicentennial of the first Freedom Rides—Sue Fishkoff has a typically excellent retrospective that reminds us of the outsize role both Jews generally and Jewish clergy especially played. (A quick way to remember this is that the trio of martyrs Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman consisted of one black man and two Jewish men.) This was a time when the NAACP’s president was Kivie Kaplan, who was active in the Reform Movement; today, the only non-black person on the NAACP’s executive board is Rabbi David Saperstein, of Reform’s Religious Action Center.

Rabbi Israel Dresner, 81, recalls being arrested in June 1961 for participating in the first Freedom Ride. “I was a Reform rabbi,” he says, “but I always wore a yarmulke. I wanted people to know I was Jewish.” He remembers being with King in Georgia in 1962 while being threatened by the local White Citizens Council. Recounting a Seder he had attended, King reportedly told Dresner, “I was enormously impressed that 3,000 years later, these people remember their ancestors were slaves, and they’re not ashamed. We Negroes have to learn that, not to be ashamed of our slave heritage.”

A Half-Century Later, Rabbis Recall Marching with Martin Luther King [JTA]

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Compare this to the almost zero support that the black community has provided for issues important to Jews such as support for Israel.

Heschel said that MLK was a modern day prophet, of the same moral stature of the biblical prophets. MLK astutely noted that antizionism is just sophistic antisemitism.

We proved our loyalty to the cause of civil rights with 78% of us supporting Obama in the election. Any reader of Tablet would readily conclude that no Jewish candidate would ever garner 78% of the Jewish vote.


I think I can safely bet that I know a whole lot more Black folks than you do, and my impression is that all you really know about our attitudes is what you get from TV news. Support for Israel’s safety and longevity is very high among African Americans. What we are unwilling to do with that state, any more than others, is give it a free pass for bad behavior, particularly since so many of its actions don’t even enhance Ha Aretz’s safety. Take another look at what Peter Beinart said last year, and that’s a lot closer than your impression of our attitudes. Your claim is not based upon neither polling data nor close acquaintance with Black communities.

I truly wish I hadn’t witnessed this when i want only one right now!

The jew-nigger conspiracy must end


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The Black-Jewish Alliance

Recalling that MLK’s greatest allies were often rabbis

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