I llustration by Bob Lync h
Detroit's Jews and blacks don't share
the same dreams. Sometimes, it seems
they don't share the world.
NOAM M.M. NEUSNER
22 FRIDAY, JANUARY 10, 1992
wo Jewish men, sitting in a
West Bloomfield diner, are
talking in muted tones.
"Yeah, I graduated from
Southfield High," says one,
dressed smartly in a gray
"Boy has that place
changed," the other says.
The two men grunt in agreement and
return to their scrambled eggs.
In the coded words of these suburban
whites, "change" means Southfield
High has blacks now.
A young black is talking to a Jewish
friend, telling him about his new job.
His boss, he says, is Jewish.
"I'll tell you something," the black
man says. "You Jews are so condescen-
"What do you mean?" the Jew says.
"There are a lot of Jews who work
here, and they're all arrogant; they all
act like they know so much."
Detroit's blacks and Jews live without
much understanding — even recognition
— of each other.
Even though Jews and blacks have
lived side by side in Detroit for close to
100 years, cooperation and understan-
ding between the two is far from ac-
When Jews moved out of Detroit and
into the suburbs, many thought they
would forever go to different schools
and live in different neighborhoods.
But a growing black population —
now 30 percent — in the once-
predominantly Jewish suburbs of Oak
Park and Southfield is making black-
Jewish relations an issue all over
again. Blacks and Jews will share the
same streets, the same schools and the
same city services. They will shop in
the same malls and eat in the same res-
As one black leader said, "You can't
run away from blacks. We're every-
Jews do not always speak in endear-
ing terms about blacks. For every at-
tempt by Detroit's Jewish Community
Council to build bridges with the
NAACP or the Urban League, there
are Jews who lock their doors when they
see a black on their street. In living
rooms, at Shabbat tables, sometimes
after synagogue services, it is not sur-
prising to hear Jews — even young Jews
who know little Yiddish — use the word
shvartze, a prejorative term.
Among blacks, Jews are peripheral,
even irrelevant. They cannot under-
stand Jewish angst about anti-
Semitism. They don't realize that Jews
consider themselves other than just
"white!' What's more, some black ac-
tivists and artists have touched nerves
by calling Jews racists. Jews are fre-
quently cited by black academics for