Toward Black-Jewish Relations Outside Of The AIPAC-ADL Construct

Black-Jewish relations will improve significantly once Black organizations, elected officials and spiritual leaders arrive at a consensus that the Anti-Defamation league (ADL) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) do not represent all Jewish people. At that point the probability of a frank dialogue, between the two communities in America, free of pre-conditions or litmus tests, becomes higher than ever before.

Tomorrow morning, on Capitol Hill, another firm step in that direction will take place when the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) hosts its fourth annual Black/Jewish Congressional Awards Ceremony. FFEU is lead by Rabbi Marc Schneier, its influential President whom the prestigious Jewish weekly The Forward has named as one of the 50 most prominent Jews in America. Rabbi Schneier is also the past President of the New York Board of Rabbis, the largest rabbinic interdenominational organization in the world.

In the view of many, the event could not have come at a better time with tensions running high between AIPAC and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) due to a couple of contentious congressional races pitting Black Caucus incumbents against Black political insurgents financially supported by AIPAC. With tensions and even acrimony in the air, a behind the scenes drama has developed over which members of the CBC will attend the FFEU event. Some Black members of Congress have declined invitations to the breakfast as a form of protest against AIPAC.

But FFEU and AIPAC, though both prominent members of the Jewish community, do not serve the same function or role among the Jewish political and cultural establishment. Unlike AIPAC and the ADL who make pre-conditions, apologies, litmus tests, and policy deference prerequisites to "dialogue" or "friendship", Rabbi Marc Schneier, thus far, has demonstrated unusual behavior, for a prominent Jewish leader, as exemplified by his private meeting, last June, with Nation Of Islam Leader Minister Louis Farrakhan.

That meeting was arranged by the two leaders' mutual friend, Hip-Hop mogul, Russell Simmons. Mr. Simmons serves as the Secretary of the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding.

While it is only a humble step and one that many are capable of manipulating for short-term political interests and further mischief-making, the FFEU's breakfast does represent an opportunity for a badly needed dialogue to occur, under the auspices of a Jewish organization that is not known for making narrow demands of Black leaders. AIPAC and the ADL have alienated many Blacks by pressuring Black leaders to do their bidding, without demonstrating an honest committment to the very people whom said leaders represent. So far, the FFEU has avoided such a notorious reputation.

If the FFEU's mission of fostering direct, face-to-face dialogue between ethnic groups is a sincere one and is accepted by the Black community; and if the organization's leader, Rabbi Schneier can resist pressure from AIPAC and the ADL and continue to demonstrate an unusual degree of courage and openness in meeting with Black leaders selected and supported by the Black community, and not hand-picked by philanthropy and political parties; indeed, a better relationship between Blacks and Jews in America can be worked out in the near future.

Here is the text (with the time and place of the private meeting omitted) of the letter of invitation to tomorrow's event:

May 22, 2002

Dear Friends,

On behalf of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding we invite you to our 4th Annual Black/Jewish Congressional Awards Ceremony and Reception honoring Congressman Major Owens (D-NY) and Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV) for their dedication and commitment to the strengthening of Black/Jewish relations...The Annual Black/Jewish Congressional Awards Ceremony and Reception is co-sponsored by the NAACP and The World Jewish Congress.

For over a decade, The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding has been at the forefront of strengthening Black/Jewish and other inter-ethnic relations throughout the nation. The Foundation was founded on the belief that direct, face-to-face dialogue between ethnic communities is the most effective path towards the reduction of bigotry and the promotion of reconciliation and understanding.

Last June, The Foundation hosted the 3rd Annual Black/Jewish Congressional Awards Ceremony and Reception, honoring Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tx) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tx.), Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), and Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY)

This landmark event, which brings together over twenty-five African-American and Jewish members of Congress, serves as a reminder of the important alliance that these communities have forged over the years to fight for human rights and social justice in our nation.

We look forward to your attendance.

Very truly yours,

Rabbi Marc Schneier

Russell Simmons

Larry Kopp
Executive Director

Wednesday, June 19, 2002