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March 05, 1993 - Image 52

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

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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page 51

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Since

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In the 1970s, Rev. Jackson was often critical of Israeli politics regarding the
Palestinians.

effort to heal. It is a slow
process, but a welcome
process."
And to win credibility with
Jews, Rev. Jackson needs to
bring his message of concilia-
tion to the general black audi-
ence, said Alan M. Dershowitz,
the Harvard law professor
who wrote about his encoun-
ters with Rev. Jackson in his
bestselling book, Chutzpah.
"He's trying to make nice to
the Jewish community in a
way that only the Jewish com-
munity is aware of. Until Jesse
Jackson makes a major speech
condemning anti-Semitism to
a major black audience, then
one has to treat him as an
arms- length potential ally —
as distinguished from a
friend."
But some Jewish leaders
put the onus on the Jewish
community as well. Robert
Lifton, president of the Amer-
ican Jewish Congress, said the
Jewish community can be "in-
flexible and unforgiving," and
must "learn to reach out to
people, to try to give them
ways to change."
Mr. Lifton, who has worked
closely with Rev. Jackson over
the years, noted that "some-
times people do change, and
the community benefits."
Ironically, like many Jew-
ish leaders, Rev. Jackson sees
every event and weighs every
issue through the filter of his

own peoples' trauma. He deals
with the Holocaust by draw-
ing comparisons to the slavery
and oppression of blacks; Zion-
ism makes sense when he puts
it in the framework of a na-
tional liberation movement.
To many Jews, this process of
relating everything to the
black experience comes across
as insensitivity, at best.
For many Jews, Jesse Jack-
son remains a lightening rod
for deep insecurities about a
rapidly changing social and po-
litical landscape. Rev. Jack-
son is a politician, but he has
also become a larger-than-life
symbol of many of the things
Jews fear. The Jewish com-
munity often seems confused
about which Jesse Jackson to
respond to — the symbol or the
politician.
And Rev. Jackson seems
confused about what he wants
from Jews: a practical alliance,
an official blessing?
The result is a complex re-
lationship that defies the
stereotypes of Jews hostile to
Rev. Jackson — and Rev. Jack-
son's simple view of how to
heal the rift. ❑

This article was made possible
by a grant from the Fund for
Journalism on Jewish Life, a
project of the CRB Foundation
of Montreal and the Jewish
Telegraphic Agency. Any views
expressed are solely those of the
author.

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