I’m Jewish. My first personal memory of antisemitism was when I was eight years old. I was in the synagogue with my father on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, a day of fasting, praying, and atonement.
We were engaged in silent prayer when all that silence was broken by loud yelling and banging as the door crashed in. A group of young white Christian boys were attacking us. They threw things at us and called us names like “sheeny” and ‘kike.” “Go back to your country. You don’t belong here,” they screamed.
I was terrified. We knew about the Nazi genocide of over 6 million Jews and other people who did not fit the Aryan “bloodline’. Many in our neighborhood had numbers tattooed on their arms from the Nazi concentration/extermination camps. All of that trauma was passed down to us.
I remember thinking, “How could they hate us so much? They don’t even know us.” At that early age, I wanted to get to know people who were different than me and have them get to know me so we wouldn’t hate each other. I also realized that to end hate, stop violence against us and find safety, Jewish people needed to join other people who had experienced discrimination. That became my mission.
Have you heard that Kanye West might buy the self-styled free speech platform called Parler? Supposedly “conservative”, the app was used to organize and recruit for the Capitol siege. Parler continually enables hate with accounts that use swastikas as their profile pictures along with posts with Holocaust denial, antisemitism, and racism. Proud Boys, QAnon conspiracy theorists, anti-government extremists and white supremacists have all promoted their views on Parler.
This piece explores another African American bit of history. It is about John Lewis and James Zwerg.
Like many, I would love to have been a proverbial “fly on the wall,” listening intently to candid conversations between those two men. Of course, we –well, most of us anyway – know about the late congressman John Lewis. But James Zwerg?
Andrew Feiler is a fifth generation Georgian. Having grown up Jewish in Savannah, he has been shaped by the rich complexities of the American South. Feiler has long been active in civic life. He has helped create over a dozen community initiatives, serves on multiple not-for-profit boards, and is an active advisor to numerous elected officials and political candidates. His art is an extension of his civic values.
Feiler’s photographs have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, Architect, Preservation, The Forward as well as on CBS This Morning and NPR. His work has been displayed in galleries and museums including solo exhibitions at such venues as the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, NC, and Octagon Museum in Washington, D.C.
Andrew documents the history of the Rosenwald schools program which transformed education for African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. The founders were Julius Rosenwald, born to Jewish immigrants, who rose to lead Sears, Roebuck & Company and Booker T. Washington , born into slavery, who became the founding principal of Tuskegee Institute. In 1912 the two men launched an ambitious program to partner with Black communities to build public schools for African American children. Andrew examines the role of education as the onramp to the American middle class as well as the past, present and future of the Black/Jewish progressive alliance.
Hear Andrew discuss:
What was most innovative about how Rosenwald and Washington structured the schoolhouse construction program?
What was the impact of the Rosenwald schools program?
How he developed his approach for telling this story visually.
Hear this very personal look at history from both an African-American and Jewish perspective. Don’t miss this amazing online discussion. Scroll down for the link.
In 1992, Ken Granderson, a graduate of MIT, launched his first software development company Inner-City Software, Brains in the Hood. He was committed to closing the Digital Divide by creating technology products and solutions by & for people of African descent. For a decade, he introduced Boston’s communities of color to computers and the Internet, giving local organizations and Boston’s Black newspaper an online world-class presence. Moving back to New York City, he was born in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, his achievements in technical design, education, and empowerment are nationally and internationally impressive. His website, BLACKFACTS, is an affiliate of the ADR. (CLICK to access)
Deborah coordinated the 1990 National Workshop on Christian Jewish RelationsIn and created her first Holocaust video in Rockford, Illinois, where she served as of the Jewish Federation’s executive director . She went on to become the Community & Media Liaison of the Tulsa Jewish Federation shortly after the OK City bombing and is the former exec. director of Chattanooga’s Jewish Federation. She carries on the work of her father who became the CFO of the American Jewish Archives. He served as a US military intelligence officer during World War II assigned to interrogate Nazi prisoners of war. CLICK for more information about her memoir,The Liberator’s Daughter, and to hear an interview with her father about his wartime experiences.
Hear the online dialogue between two television / media experts discuss their ties to their respective communities, how they’re shaped by them, and how they report stories about them. * Scroll down for the link. *
LaTrice Currie is a native Tennessean who graduated from Hampton U. LaTrice joined Chattanooga’s Channel 3 Eyewitness News in 1995. She now co-anchors news at noon and 5:30 and also serves as Eye On Health Reporter and host of Trends on 3.
LaTrice’s awards include Chattanooga Woman of Distinction, Hamilton County Outstanding Citizen, Black Excellence Chattanooga “Best Media Personality,” Times Free Press “Best Chattanoogan, and NAACP Image Awards. She serves as ambassador for Go Red For Women and on various boards: Moccasin Bend Girl Scout Council, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chattanooga, advisory board for Volunteers in Medicine, and Partnership for Families, Children, and Adults.
Ilene Gould is a photographer, writer, illustrator and full time news producer for NewsChannel9 in Chattanooga where she has produced every show from mornings, to dayside evening shows, to nightside. She also co-produced an hour long Town Hall called “Changing Chattanooga”. Ilene is a Michigan State Graduate with a degree in Media and Information, a concentration in Film and Video Production, and minors in Fiction Filmmaking and Music.
Ilene also works part-time as Community Manager at Better Sax, where saxophonist Jay Metcalf teaches and creates online lessons to learn to play the saxophone by ear.
Be inspired! Hear these two creative souls who share a love of music from their respective religions. Scroll down for the link to the recording.
Melvin Kindall Myles is a Mississippi native, born and raised in the Delta area of Clarksdale, MS; known as the birthplace of the blues. He is a Soulful Christian and Jazz Vocalist now based in Atlanta, GA where you will find him regularly serving in the Worship and Arts Ministry of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the former pulpit of MLK Jr.
Today, United Fruit is a huge corporation, but that Black/Jewish beginning is almost lost in history. In today’s world it would be seen very differently from what it actually was. It was beginning to lose that history when I was growing up because Jews were beginning to call themselves “white” and the general U. S. society could not see such an alliance and friendship as one amongst equals as existed between the man who founded United Fruit and the man who was responsible for a serious part of its early growth. But when I was a small child, the stories and the talk were about how United Fruit would not have existed or grown as it did without the friendship and working together of those two men – the Jew and the Black. Back then Jews were not hired to work regular jobs. In fact, it is within my lifetime that banks went from hiring no Jews to now hiring Jews for jobs up and down the bank ladder. Jews back then had to either start their own company or find some other independent way to make a living. That is what Mr. Zemurray was doing. Looking back into that history from today, it is easy to re-write it so that its real beginnings are “cleaned-up”.
Racism, when it has become “structured” into a society and into its institutions, is a very complex thing. We like to think it is an “unfortunate incident” which happened because the person to whom it happened was complicit in some way. It is not. Every action you take is governed by the bigotry structured into the society in which you live which has successfully structured that bigotry into every core and every cell of its existence. The experience of bigotry is not a one time experience. It is all day everyday for those who are the “minority.” It is also an all day everyday experience for those who are “white.” Their lives move ahead beyond their talents and contributions to this society because of the fact that they are in the “better than” group.
Welcome to the Black-Jewish Dialogue, a virtual exchange of information and perspectives . The November dialogue “Black and Jewish” has been recorded. Scroll down for the link to the Dialogue recording.
Bryant is a veteran of the US Army, and a graduate of the Military Intelligence Cryptologic College of Corry Station, Pensacola. After a particularly difficult deployment to Iraq he shifted his focus from intelligence analysis to Jewish community building, interfaith outreach, and inclusion initiatives. Bryant is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant working primarily with North American Jewish organizations, a Jewish Educator, Teen Engagement Mentor, a 2018 Union for Reform Judaism Jew V’ Nation Fellow, and bluegrass hobbyist. Bryant is currently studying the “Intersections, Conflicts, and Alliances of the Black and Jewish Diasporas” at Western Washington University (in preparation for Rabbinic school), and resides in Bellingham, Washington.
Dr. Barbara Weitz
Barbara is the former Director, Film Studies Certificate Program at Florida International University English Dept. She has done research for years with Dr. Tudor Parfitt and with the Kulanu Organization in identifying and supporting Isolated, Emerging and returning Jewish Communities around the world. She also has been on the steering committee of FCOS (Faith Communities Organizing for Sanctuary) and has spent time at our southern border trying to assist migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. She is currently heading up the organizing group preparing to help refugee Afghanis settle in the community. Through her research with Jews of Color, she has spoken at conferences and given webinars on the growing topic.