Statement for the Jewish Post
By Rabbi Marc Schneier and Russell Simmons
The Jewish people are under attack. Horrific expressions of anti-Semitism continue to spread across the United States and the world. These attacks, both verbal and physical, are occurring at all levels of society, from the highest ranks of government to the individual on the street.
In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we ask African-Americans to embrace his legacy and to join us in defeating the injustice of anti-Semitism. For even as Dr. King struggled to achieve equality for his own people, he did not hesitate to express total disdain for anti-Semitism, even when that virus erupted within his own community. He championed the civil rights of Jews, spoke out for the human rights of Soviet Jews and reminded the world of those Jews who endured beatings and gave their lives for the civil rights movement.
The Jewish community cannot fight this battle alone. Blacks and Jews have a long, shared history of working together to affect social change, as when Jews stood by their African-American brothers and sisters in the civil rights era.
During the civil rights movement, Dr. King said, "In the struggle for human rights, as well as in the struggle for the upward march of our civilization, we have deep need for the partnership, fellowship and courage of our Jewish brother."
Now, the Jewish community needs the partnership, fellowship and courage of African-Americans. The civil rights of Jews are now at stake. In fact, a recent national poll by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding found that 77% of Blacks and 73% of Jews agree that they should work together on civil rights.
Anti-Semitic incidents are up dramatically in the United States, including a 24% increase on college campuses in 2002.
In England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Turkey and other countries throughout Asia and Europe, synagogues are bombed, Jewish schools are torched and members of the Jewish community are forced to hide their yarmulkes and Star of David pendants. Most recently, the Prime Minister of Malaysia engaged in an anti-Semitic diatribe and rhetoric, describing Jews as ruling the world "by proxy."
Were Dr. King alive today, he would speak out vociferously against this new wave of anti-Semitism. He also would not tolerate the moral laryngitis that many political leaders seem to suffer from in the face of these despicable acts against the Jewish people.
Dr. King invoked the immortal words that "a people who fight for their own rights only are as honorable as when they fight for the rights of all people."
He acknowledged the interdependence of our two communities. "Every Negro leader is keenly aware, from direct and personal experience, that the segregationists and racists make no fine distinctions between the Negro and the Jew. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."
In this spirit, we appeal to African-Americans to stand in solidarity with their Jewish brothers and sisters who face the scourge and evils of anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, Founder and President
Russell Simmons, Chairman
The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
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