Black Lives Matter – But so do Jewish sensitivities

It didn’t begin, and it won’t end, with Nick Cannon. Black-Jewish relations, and the dialogues in between, has been a multiculturalism of hope more than an embrace of mutual affection and shared expectations. However, once again, as if the sordid history of our on-again off-again relationship needed any further diatribes and warnings, Nick Cannon, well known TV host and producer, unilaterally decided he just couldn’t hold anything back. Together with Richard “professor Griff” Griffin from the rap group Public Enemy, in an alliance marked by what they said rather than what united them on any ethical and moral grounds, contended that Black people are the true Hebrews and that Jews have usurped that identity.

Cannon then argued that Jewish people have a deficiency that historically caused them to act out of fearing to commit acts of violence to survive, as if they were savages. This follows in a long line of Black leaders, most notably Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, who last year referenced “Satanic Jews”in a speech denying allegations of anti-Semitism.

But of course, Black leaders along the decades have not been silent about their insensitivities to Jews and Jewish existence while however insisting that others focus on their emerging needs within the world wherever their issues seem to have been historically intractable and socially unacceptable. Black leaders have associated religious Judaism with political Judaism as it related to Zionism and the State of Israel. Remember Kwame Ture, when he was formally known as Stokely Carmichael, when he came out and stated: The only good Zionist is a dead Zionist” as he spoke at campuses around the country, frequently vilifying the Jewish State and its supporters.. Most notably in February 1990, at the University of Minnesota Law School, Ture proclaimed that “Zionism must be destroyed…Zionism will make Judaism a gutter religion. It’s like God and the Devil.” And this was after he proclaimed that “Zionist pigs have been harassing us everywhere” warning “And when this anger rises, we will snap our fingers and finish them off.”

He followed this with a speech in 1990 at Princeton University where he repeated his frequent accusation that the “International Zionist Movement…is controlling all of the banks, businesses and financial institutions in our community, selling us rotten meat at the corner store, dry rotted clothes and charging high rent for slum buildings…” At the University of Minnesota, Ture charged that “the Zionists joined with the Nazis in murdering Jews, so that they will flee to Palestine.”

This should have been enough, but it wasn’t. Because in 1985, NAP leader Fred Newman stated: “The history of Zionism, the manipulation that is Zionism, is nothing more than the making of a deal with the devil. To one saved…means to follow and build the relationship, the great struggle to people of color all over the world, and in the United States of America, to follow the leadership of the Afro-American leadership as Jews, as Puerto Ricans, as gays, as straights – because that’s the progressive leadership that will end these sick, vulgar, inhuman deals with the devils…,”

These demonstrations of sick, vulgar, inhuman statements, as most notably continued by Nick Cannon, does in no way help alleviate the constant tensions with which Black-Jewish relations are means to advance in a positive manner, with an understanding that whereas we do not share an exact common historical background, we do nevertheless have been selected, for whatever reasons the universe has chosen, for special horrors and vindictive nightmares. If we are going to get anywhere in the future, the success on which our mutual relationship is gauged must be built on not just mutual trust, but by the desire to assist in all areas where needed, and where such nasty, mean and disgusting recriminations by one against the other will be neutralized and dissipated by a much more sensitive common understanding of our past and a shared mission of reaching our mutual goals. Black Lives will only Matter when Black Leaders will realize that Jewish Lives also matter equally.

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Landau is Emeritus Rabbi and President of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis. He served the Bnai Jacob Congregation and later Ner Tamid Congregation in Baltimore. He was born in the UK, graduated Jews College with Bachelors Degree in Jewish Studies, has Smichah from Israel.