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On the judicial path toward the advancement of civil rights, Jews played important roles as lawyers and judges. American Jews have often felt a kinship with African Americans, based on shared minority status and the cultural memory of slavery albeit a much more immediate history for African Americans. In the mid th century, certain conditions contributed to this sense of identification. The recent history of the Holocaust made many American Jews more attuned to discrimination and racism and more committed to opposing it. In addition, the widespread postwar financial success of American Jews bolstered their confidence that the American ideals of equality and meritocracy from which they had benefited could also work for African Americans, not realizing that anti-black racism made the African American experience significantly different from the Jewish case.

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For their part, some African Americans, who drew strength from biblical stories of slavery and God's redemption and witnessed Jews' active commitment to civil rights, also saw Jews as partners in their struggle. At the same time, latent tensions always existed between the two communities. Some blacks, viewing the inequality and asymmetry between the experiences of the two groups, resented Jewish feelings of moral proprietorship in the civil rights struggle. The geographic closeness of the two groups, who often shared neighborhoods frequently as a result of the exclusion of black and Jews from other areas could lead to tension as well.

African Americans' main contact with Jews was often in the form of landlords or shop owners, and some resented Jews for making a profit off their community.

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When many Jews, participating in "white flight," left inner-city neighborhoods for the suburbs and better educational opportunities for their children, their African American neighbors often felt abandoned, blamed for urban problems, and resentful that they did not have the same opportunities to move elsewhere. These tensions sometimes took explicit shape in public anti-Semitic statements among African Americans and anti-black statements among Jews.

Jews often felt particularly betrayed by African American anti-Semitism, arguing that blacks should be more generous given Jewish support of civil rights and that African American leaders should more quickly and roundly condemn expressions of anti-Semitism in their community when such statements were made. The latent tensions became more prominent within the Civil Rights Movement as it moved north and into the cities in the mids.

In the South, Jews — despite having white privilege — clearly did not have the same power as other whites.

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In the North, Jews did not seem as different from other whites, and were often the ones who wielded the most power in black neighborhoods. New York: Penguin Books, The mids also brought a shift within the Civil Rights Movement from a focus on integration and alliance-building to one of separatism. In , SNCC and other radical civil rights groups made Black Power the new basis of their activism, calling for racial pride among African Americans and black self-determination within the Civil Rights Movement.

Proponents of Black Power pointed out that blacks could not achieve true freedom unless they led the movement themselves; otherwise, whites retained a degree of power and authority over them. They emphasized the need for black self-sufficiency, as well as black cultural pride e.

These ideas were not entirely new; Malcolm X — influenced by his conversion to the Nation of Islam, a black separatist religious sect — had advocated a platform of separatism in the early s. By the late s, however, Black Power had fundamentally changed the structures and assumptions of the Civil Rights Movement and had inspired new organizations, such as the Black Panther Party, as well as a new wave of "Afro-centrism" in African American culture as demonstrated by the use of African names, African clothing styles, "Afro" hair styles, etc.


The Six Day War provided another spur to black-Jewish tension. After Israel's surprising military triumph in June , many American Jews experienced a surge of pride in Israel, an underdog nation that had succeeded in becoming a power to be reckoned with, and felt a new or renewed commitment to Zionism. Some African Americans also saw the Jewish state as a model for a historically oppressed people empowering themselves.

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At the same time, many civil rights activists began to develop a more critical approach to Israel, identifying with the Palestinians as an oppressed group seeking self-determination, and castigating Zionism as a colonial, racist movement. These tensions around Zionism came to a public head in , when Andrew Young, a civil rights activist and the first African American Ambassador to the United Nations, met secretly with representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

This meeting sparked an uproar, in which Jews were prominent among those who loudly condemned Young, and which resulted in President Carter asking Young to resign, which he did. Many felt that Jews had forced his resignation. Another symbolic rupture in black-Jewish relations was the controversy around the decentralization of Brooklyn's Ocean Hill-Brownsville schools in The city of New York had proposed decentralizing the school system by breaking it into neighborhood districts to be run by community boards.


This would give parents a stake in their children's schools and make the schools more accountable to them. Ocean Hill-Brownsville — a majority African American community — was one of the three districts chosen to test decentralization. Parents, with the support of white teachers led by Sandra Feldman , a Jewish member of the United Federation of Teachers UFT union, had already been organizing in Ocean Hill-Brownsville and supported the decentralization plan which they referred to as "community control," emphasizing that from their perspective, this was an experiment in self-determination, not just a change in bureaucratic models.

The tensions around decentralization focused primarily on the question of whether the community board had the power to hire and fire teachers without regard to the teachers' union's system of due process. Though the issue was about district decentralization and administrative protocol, the situation came to be understood as one that pitted African American interests against Jewish interests. Javascript is not enabled in your browser. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site.

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    USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Explore Now. Buy As Gift. Overview The Black, White and Jewish lesson plan contains a variety of teaching materials that cater to all learning styles. The lessons and activities will help students gain an intimate understanding of the text; while the tests and quizzes will help you evaluate how well the students have grasped the material. Product Details. Average Review. Write a Review.