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Shared Dreams

by Gad Nahshon

It is not surprising that Rabbi Marc Schneier, a young spiritual leader and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, decided to write a new book entitled Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King Jr., and the Jewish Community. The preface was written by Martin Luther King III (Jewish Lights Publishing Jan. 2000, Woodstock).

Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and president of the New York Board of Rabbis, presents the untold story of Dr. King's involvement with the Jewish community. Through the use of previously unpublished material and interviews with those who marched at Dr. King's side, the long-neglected story of mutual support between Dr. King and the Jewish community is brought to life.

Shared Dreams sheds new light on the commitment and the relationship between the Jewish and African American communities as they struggled together to fight for justice and civil rights in our nation and our lives. Dr. Carolyn Goodman, mother of Andrew Goodman - one of the three young civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi in 1964 - calls Shared Dreams "a fascinating perspective on Dr. King's relationship with the Jewish community."

"Rabbi Schneier has gone to great lengths to compile the complex story of the cooperation, and sometimes angst, between blacks and Jews during the civil rights movement in the context of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life," writes Martin Luther King III in the book's preface. "From the account of his friendship with men like the incomparable Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel ... to anti-Semitic sentiments within the movement itself, Rabbi Schneier examines different aspects of the relation between my father and the Jewish community. As such, he outlines a compelling image of relations between the two communities."

Shared Dreams offers the Jewish people an opportunity to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. day remembering his powerful efforts on our behalf," says Stuart M. Matlins, publisher of Jewish Lights. "We are pleased to bring this inspiring story to both the Jewish and African American communities in an effort to learn from history and build bridges for the future."

"One of the most important books I've read this year," says Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the NAACP. "Rabbi Schneier thoughtfully illustrates the depth of the friendship between Dr. King and our Jewish brothers and sisters, thus providing us with a fresh and bold new perspective on both a beloved civil rights leader and a most revolutionary time in our history. This book also takes great care to explore the commonality of the struggle for equality." Shared Dreams was praised also by many Jewish leaders such as Dr. Israel Singer, Secretary General for the World Jewish Congress who wrote: "A powerful and meaningful book about the prophetic leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his colleagues ... It must be read by all who seek to improve the condition of human rights." And Dr. Carolyn Goodman, president of the Andrew Goodman Foundation (Goodman was murdered in the south when fighting for civil rights. He is a new kind of martyr!). She wrote that this book: "Offers us a fascinating perspective on Dr. King's relationship with the Jewish community."

Rabbi Marc Schneier has dedicated his public life to promote the Jewish religion and the better understanding between Jews and Afro-Americans. Sad to say, in the last decade, we have faced terrible confrontations between the two communities as a result of the mushrooming of anti-Semitism inside the world by the Afro-American people. Furthermore, too many Afro-American intellectuals joined the crowd. It looks as if the old Black/Jewish Alliance is being disintegrated or even dismantled. It should be noted that the state of Israel has worked here to improve these kind of old friendships between Jews and Blacks.

But the general picture was bad. For example: The 'Crown Heights Affair' Aug. 1991. There was a need for a new formula in order to save this alliance. There was an urgent need to revive the old alliance and educate the new young masses. There was a need to stop the process of deterioration, a need for a new bridge of hope. That was the moment for Rabbi Schneier to step in and do something about it. It was a new moment of healing, a moment for a new kind of ethnic tolerance and brotherhood as well. Rabbi March Schneier is dedicated to strengthening relations between the Jewish and African American communities. Also the founding rabbi of the Hampton (NY) Synagogue in 1997, he was invited by President Clinton to participate in the inaugural White House Conference on Race Relations.

Schneier has been the recipient of many awards, including the 1999 Civil Rights Leadership Award in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He has published and lectured extensively on the subject of intergroup relations and is a frequent guest on television and radio.

The contribution of Rabbi Schneier to the rising of a new brotherhood between Jews and Afro-Americans is not only great, but it demonstrates the ability of a leader to change the path of history. Certainly, we still must go on with our educational project and uproot the dangerous Afro-American anti-Semitism. We must also uproot the danger of racism from this world in the 21st century. Indeed, Rabbi Schneier showed us the way, and at the same time, illuminated for us the contribution of Martin Luther King, Jr. to brotherhood of mankind.


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