In a piece for the Jewish Daily Forward today, Josh Nathan-Kazis worries that 20 years after the riots raged through Crown Heights in Brooklyn, N.Y., the state of black-Jewish relations seems to have disappeared as a concern today for African Americans and Jews alike.
Is it a sign that efforts at reconciliation after the riots were successful, or that the bond between the two groups is so insignificant that it has lost any relevance?
David Levering-Lewis, a history professor at New York University, told the Forward, "No news is good news on this score."
He's not alone in that view. "What's changed for us is the whole nature of diversity in New York," said Rabbi Robert Kaplan, lead intergroup relations official at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. "In 1991 we thought about diversity as being blacks, some Latinos and some others." In this expansion of the melting pot, he says, the Jewish and black communities have become less critical.
But Nathan-Kazis notes that when candidate Barack Obama spoke about the black-Jewish alliance on the campaign trail in 2008, he talked about needing to "rebuild" it.
And Walter Strong, executive vice president of New Orleans HBCU, Dillard University, agrees. He's working to relaunch the school's black-Jewish relations program. "I do admit the fact that our communities have grown apart, as they have, but I do hope there can be a greater understanding, and I've begun to see some of that in certain areas," he said, adding that he's hopeful for "much greater opportunities to understand and have dialogue."
Whether the nature of the current relationship between the two groups (which seems to involve little conflict but just as little collaboration) is problematic is clearly up for debate. But if there's a conversation that needs to take place, consider it started.
Read more at the Jewish Daily Forward.
In other news: VIDEO: Why Are Blacks Leaving Brooklyn?