Launching of black-Jewish caucus
Launching of black-Jewish caucusCourtesy of AJC

Let’s be honest, right now, the Black-Jewish relationship is noticeably strained. The Black Lives Matter movement has raised questions as to whether or not blacks as a group support BDS, and still share the anti-Semitic and false stereotypes about Jews owning Hollywood and Wall Strret.

It is amazing that over 600 hundred Jewish organizations (none of them Orthodox) have declared support for Black Lives Matter, even though many of those affiliated with Black Lives Matter have expressed anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian sentiments that are viewed as anti-Semitic.

Let’s be honest— Blacks and Jews have an important joint history and the month of February is the perfect time to teach the facts in classes, share them through mainstream media and make those facts part of the overall discussion.

We have a generation that doesn’t know that rabbis walked with Dr. Martin Luther King or that in 1964, three civil rights workers – two Jewish and one black – went missing while in Jessup County, Mississippi,to organize a voter registry for African Americans - and were then found murdered.

There is an excellent article that details Black-History American history. Be sure to take the time to read it.

Many lessons in elementary school are centered around Dr. King, Harriet Tubman and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. But here is a fact known only to a few:

It concerns the trial of Joseph Spell, State of Connecticut v. Joseph Spell, which was a 1940 legal case in which an African-American chauffeur was accused of raping Eleanor Strubing, a wealthy white woman who was his boss. The accusations and trial made sensational headlines. Spell was represented by Samuel Friedman and Thurgood Marshall. Marshall was barred from speaking in court because he wasn’t a member of the Connecticut bar, Marshall relied on a Jewish attorney, Samuel Friedman, an insurance lawyer, who agreed to serve as co-counsel with him and to speak for him in court.

It’s awards season in Hollywood. Hattie McDaniel was the first African American Academy Award winner for Gone With The Wind. Her win was in part to the support of Louis B. Mayer and David Selznick in Hollywood.

Dorothy Dandridge was the first African-American woman nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for Carmen Jones. Her big break came from Jewish immigrant Otto Preminger, who directed her.

The Black-Jewish Person

In today’s world of assimilation, intermarriage between Jews and Blacks is growing, and while noting the need for conversion in the case of a non-Jewish mother, there are offspring who have grown up brien-skinned and had a Bar Mitzvah. Lenny Kravitz, Tracie Ellis Ross and Rashida Jones come to mind.

Comedian Rain Pryor was raised by her Jewish mother’s family. Maya Rudolph was raised by her Jewish father.

National Basketball Association All Star Amare Stoudemire finished his conversion last August. In addition to wearing a Black Hat and religious garb, he has added "kosher wine maker" to his resume. This Passover, Royal Wine, the world’s largest purveyor of kosher wines and spirits is selling Stoudemire Origins 2018 and Stoudemire Clarity Rosé 2020. After establishing a line of kosher wines produced in the Upper Galilee (imported and distributed by the Royal Wine Corp.), Amare is expanding his offerings to California in collaboration with Herzog Wine Cellars (USA). SRP: $24.99.

We also have Ethiopian Jews, Jews legally living in New York from other African countries and groups of Blacks who have converted and are Sabbath observers and eat only kosher food.

Actress Tiffany Haddish’s father was an Ethiopian Jew.

Pittsburgh Steelers Jordan Dangerfield is an Ethiopian Jew born in Queens, New York.

We don’t discuss or acknowledge this group enough. How should they be treated? As Blacks? As Jews? Here is a start:

Robin Washington, an American journalist and filmmaker, became one of three founders of the National Conference of Black Jews, later called the Alliance of Black Jews. It was conceived to build bridges among all African-American Jews, who are affiliated with many different groups. Estimates of the number of black Jews in the United States have been found to be around 200,000.

There are several predominantly African-American synagogues in the United States, such as Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, which is a synagogue in Chicago, Illinois.

On February 1st, more than 170 entertainment industry leaders released a unity statement launched the Black-Jewish Entertainment Alliance (BJEA), a joint initiative of black and Jewish entertainment industry professionals devoted to countering racism and anti-Semitism. The question is, will it work will it be based on facts rather than opinions?

Let’s start a new tradition this Black History Month. Let’s educate on the Black-Jewish relationship. Teach the good, teach the bad, like Louis Farrakhan and the riots in Crown Heights in the 1990s. And, teach Sammy Davis Jr., teach about entertainer Ice Cube’s new found respect for Israel after befriending The Zionist Organization of America’s President, Morton Klein.

Those signs that used to say: No Jews, No Blacks, No Dogs should unite us, not divide us, not only during Black History Month but 365 days of the year.

Cindy Grosz is an award winning media personality, brand ambassador and Jewish activist. She unsuccessfully ran as the first Modern Orthodox woman for Congress in 2020. During the Trump administration, she was a Jewish advisor on the National Diversity Coalition for Trump. Her columns appear regularly in The Times of Israel and Israel National News. She has Co-hosted on 710AM WOR and other outlets. She is the chair of Jewish Vote GOP. She can be reached through [email protected]