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March 05, 1993 - Image 51

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-03-05

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address he referred to "democratic Is-
rael" which resulted in a continuing
surge of invitations to speak to Jewish
organizations and synagogues.
Rev. Jackson has announced a joint
legislative agenda with the American
Jewish Congress; several weeks ago, Is-
rael's deputy foreign minister Yossi
Beilin invited him to Israel — and, in a
private meeting, suggested that Rev.
Jackson could help Israel develop its re-
lations with the African National
But some in the Jewish community,
while welcoming his efforts, suggest that
Rev. Jackson hasn't gone far enough.
In particular, Rev. Jackson still re-
fuses to unequivocally condemn Nation
of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan,
whose anti-Semitic comments have
widened the black-Jewish divide.
Rev. Jackson defended that refusal
as both a religious and a practical ne-
"From my religious point of view, we
are advised to condemn the sin but not
the sinner," he said. "We are forever try-
ing to revive people, convert them, re-
deem them."
He suggested that his ability to main-
tain good relations with diverse leaders
on the national and international scenes
increases his ability to play the role of
"If I had not had reasonable rapport
with [Syria's president Hafez] Assad, I
couldn't have made the appeal to help
get Syrian Jews out," he said. "If I had
not built reasonable rapport with Cas-
tro, I couldn't have gotten the Cuban
Americans out; if I had not developed
some rapport with Saddam Hussein, I
couldn't have gotten 400 Americans and
Frenchmen out."
His unwillingness to repudiate con-
troversial black leaders, he said, "does
not mean that I embrace their philoso-
phy, or that I dance with them. It's just
basic rapport."
But the Jackson-Farrakhan connec-
tion remains a major impediment to his
goal of winning over a suspicious Jew-
ish community.
"He still engages in semantics," said
Abraham Foxman, executive director of
the Anti-Defamation League. "To this
day, he has never disowned Farrakhan;
just uses different verbiage. That is
Basic Differences
Despite the strong and bitter feelings much bigger in people's minds than
he has provoked in the Jewish commu- `Hymietown.' "
Still, Mr. Foxman acknowledged Rev.
nity, Jesse Jackson sees signs of an im-
recent efforts.
"There's no question he has done yeo-
One watershed was his speech at a
World Jewish Congress conference on man's work in the last few months to
anti-Semitism in Brussels last year, a reach out, to set things straight," he said.
long, stirring address in which he urged "His difficulties with the Jewish com-
listeners to recognize the "historic evil munity did not come from one state-
of anti-Semitism, to insure that it is not ment, one speech. It was a pattern over
built into the psychological and political the years. To make it whole, to heal it,
foundations of the new Europe. In that it will take time. We should welcome his

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of
the Religious Action Center of Reform
Judaism and an articulate advocate of
a closer relationship between Rev. Jack-
son and the Jewish community, offered
an explanation for the communication
problem. "There is a lack of exposure to
Jews and to Jewish culture through
much of his life," he said of Rev. Jack-
son, "that has made it difficult for him
to pick up the nuances of code words
and sensitivities and sensibilities that
some other black leaders have."
In the past, Rev. Jackson has aroused
resentment by seeking to understand
Jewish experience — and particularly
the Holocaust — through the lens of his
own people's history. Even many Jews
who empathize with the tragic history
of the black community bristle at sug-
gestions of a parallel when Rev. Jack-
son speaks of Hitler's hatred of blacks
and Jews for "defiling" the white race.
"You ask him about the Holocaust,
and he talks about black soldiers liber-
ating concentration camps," said Rabbi
Robert J. Marx, a Chicago political ac-
tivist and leader of Congregation Hakafa
in Glencoe, Ill. Rabbi Marx has been
close to Rev. Jackson since the 1960s,
when they both worked with Dr. Mar-
tin Luther King Jr. in Chicago.
The rabbi said that Rev. Jackson is
not anti-Semitic but that he often has a
hard time learning from experience. "Ev-
ery time he wants to build a bridge, it's
like a whole new experience," he said.
It's as if he is always starting from
scratch, and that can mean that "he
doesn't have the basis in which to get in-
side the Jewish consciousness."
Last year, Rev. Jackson attended Rab-
bi Marx's seder.
"It was wonderful worshipping with
him," he said. "The people were very
moved. But some of them had the feel-
ing that he was somewhat removed —
that he was almost taking notes, think-
ing about what he was going to say lat-
Rabbi Marx said it is very important
to Rev. Jackson that he be liked and not
viewed as a bigot. "He has made mis-
takes; he will continue to make mis-
takes. But he has done some wonderful
things that we need to recognize."

Rev. Jackson
Speaks Out

On black anti-Semitism:
The (ADL) report came out about
the black racism question, and said
that blacks who had more education
were less likely to be anti-Semitic;
blacks who had more exposure to Jews
were less likely to be anti-Semitic.
It is true that education and expo-
sure are antidotes to people's fears, to
ignorance, to lack of knowledge. That's
why we should address people's fears,
and with information and association
turn their fears into hopes.

On Jewish racism:
It serves me no good purpose to get
off into that analysis. It seems to me
that what we have in common is com-
mon threats that are real...
We are not each other's real ene-
mies; we are each other's real solu-
tions, if we would just reach out.

On his early views of Jews:
I had no long experience with Jews
as a kid in South Carolina. There was
no distinction, there were just whites
and blacks. We couldn't go to a South-
ern Baptist church or a synagogue, we
didn't know the difference, in reality.
I went away to graduate school, I be-
came a student of Rabbi Abraham
Heschel...and began to learn things I
didn't know. I worked with Rabbi
(Robert) Marx; together with Dr. King
we began to do things.
And in later years we've all had re-
newed sensitivity. We've learned about
each other's histories and sensitivities
and fears, with a complete new level of
sensitivity in this period of political
correctness and ethnic correctness.

On the UN Zionism-is-racism
I think that condemnation had to do
with politics way different from the bi-
ological definition of Zionism. It had to
do with Israel vis-a-vis South Africa,
and situations it was reacting to, just
as a lot of Jewish people, in 1984, were
more concerned about my Mideast po-
sitions, which were not clearly under-
stood, than they were about some gaffe
about 'Hymie.' That wasn't the issue, I
think the issue was something else.
I think the issue was also something
else (when the United Nations voted to
approve the original resolution). I'm
glad the U.N. has gotten beyond that

On Israel and South Africa:
The kinship Israel had with South
Africa became another point of con-
tention, broad-based contention. Now,
even those things must not divide us.
The fact is, in the final analysis, that
Israel has far more in common with

the ANC (African National Congress)
than it does with Afrikaners.

On affirmative action:
In the final analysis, blacks and
Jews should expect each other to sup-
port affirmative action, because both of
us have faced lockouts. The issue is not
just what happened to Jews in Ger-
many; blacks and Jews faced lockouts
Those of us who have both been
locked out should not be fighting each
other over crumbs.

On the lessons of
Crown Heights:
There are forces in our midst who
stand to gain from our pain. The black-
Jewish issue in America has become
political fodder and media sexy. So the
media says, "blacks and Jews are
fighting again today," and "more at
Five O'Clock," and we become good
copy. And leaders who care about the
fabric of New York laid back too long;
watching a few Chasidics and a few
blacks and many more cameras fight it
Given the dynamics of TV, you can
take a small stage, with three people
on two sides, and project it into three
million. So you end up with relatively
few people — less than 50 people — set-
ting the agenda for everybody else.
That's the lesson to be learned.

On reviving a black-Jewish
We are peculiar in our circum-
stances. Our common threats, our
gifts, our shared religious heritage, our
shared values. Unlike other combina-
tions of groups...none of them have
been set up as scapegoats the way
blacks and Jews have. None have
faced the indignities that blacks and
Jews faced in World War II.

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