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May 06, 1994 - Image 58

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-05-06

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Are religious
institutions the
proper place
for blacks and
Jews to resolve







Kevin Early:
"I've spent most of my time trying to understand people who are different from me."

mid the clutter of final exams and term
papers, in his office high on the fifth
floor of Varner Hall at Oakland Uni-
versity, Kevin Early keeps an East-
er card.
It's from a new friend. A woman
who had Mr. Early and several
other members of Plymouth Unit-
ed Church of Christ, of which Mr. Early is a con-
gregant, to dinner. Her name is Cindy
Silverman, and she is Jewish.
Ms. Silverman lives in Sterling Heights. Mr.
Early resides in Bingham Farms.
Their paths might never have crossed if it
weren't for their convictions and congregations.
For five years, Plymouth United Church of
Christ in Detroit and Congregation Shir Tikvah
in Troy have been courting each other. There
have been pulpit exchanges and the planting of
a peace pole — a wooden stick expressing a mes-
sage of goodwill in four languages — by mem-
bers of both institutions in the church's front
lawn. Newsletters list social groups and meet-
ings open to members of both congregations.
In March, Shir Tikvah congregants invited
Plymouth members into their homes for Shab-
bat dinner.
Newspapers are filled with reports of the anti-
Semitic messages of the Rev. Louis Farrakhan
and his associates in the Black Muslim sect Na-
tion of Islam and Howard University's decision
to cancel a speaking engagement by a Jewish
scholar but allow Khalid Abdul Muhammad to
visit. Howard University is a predominantly
black college in Washington D.C.
Meanwhile, baby boomers reminisce about
marching for civil rights in the 1960s with their
black brethren.
But in metropolitan Detroit, most Jews and
blacks don't live in the same neighborhoods.
Their children attend different schools. Their
political and social agendas are not even on a
Jews speak of Israel, Middle East peace, as-
similation and intermarriage. Black leaders pon-
der ways to dean up neighborhoods of crime and
drugs and how to best encourage education.
At times the two groups meet, like in the joint
penning of a letter to Sen. Carl Levin by the Jew-
ish Community Council and the NAACP-Detroit
Branch encouraging support of Martin Luther
King Jr. Day as a federal holiday.
But the schisms cause some to wonder why
the leadership of both groups expend so much
talk and energy on improving relations.
"As Spike Lee would say, It's the right thing
to do,' " said the Rev. Nicholas Hood III, spiri-
tual leader of Plymouth Church and a Detroit
city councilman. "It's simple but it's true.
"African-American and Jewish relations
weren't at the top of my agenda. The relation-
ship was suggested by a lay leader. Each step
has led to another and each activity and meet-
ing has made sense at the time."
Bracha Stein, an Oak Park resident, agrees
that black-Jewish dialogue shouldn't be a top
priority. In some situations, she believes it can
be harmful.

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