Rift between blacks and Jews is exaggerated, study declares

November 02, 1991|By Joel McCord l

The highly publicized gulf between blacks and Jews in the United States is not nearly as wide as one might think, judging from a study released yesterday by the Marjorie Kovler Institute for Black-Jewish Relations.

The three-year-long study, unveiled at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations biennial meeting in the Convention Center downtown, found more than 200 model programs, many involving synagogues and black churches working together on projects in cities and on college campuses throughout the country.

"The message is clear that if blacks and Jews can stop shouting at each other and start listening, we can roll up our sleeves and work together to make our communities better," said Rabbi Lynne F. Landsberg, one of the editors of "Common Road to Justice: A Programming Manual for Blacks and Jews," the book published as a result of the study.

Ms. Landsberg said the project began as a small survey of Reform Jewish and black Christian congregations to verify what "we had been hearing from our congregations about all this black-Jewish stuff that was going on, despite what we were reading in the papers" about the deterioration of relations between the two groups.

She and others pointed to riots that flared last August in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn after a 7-year-old black youth was killed in an automobile accident and an Australian rabbinical student was murdered the next day.

Despite such incidents, the response to their questionnaire was so great that they expanded the survey to include Conservative and Orthodox congregations throughout the country, she added.

"We received back hundreds and hundreds of handwritten answers, and we organized them into a user-friendly manual."

The manual cites continuing efforts of Temple Beth-El in Great Neck, N.Y., and Mount Olive Baptist Church in nearby Manhasset to rid their neighborhoods of crack houses, establish a summer job-finding program for teen-agers and lobby for housing programs for the homeless.

It also mentions the success of the Black/Jewish Forum of

Baltimore, known as BLEWS, which began in 1978 as an informal dialogue group and now sponsors activities for college students from both communities and other such groups.

LTC "We were concerned that the old civil rights coalition was falling away," explained Delegate Dolores G. Kelley, D-Baltimore, a professor at Coppin State College and BLEWS' president. "There was a movement within the black community that we should be more autonomous. And our friends who put their bodies on the line for us felt unappreciated and unwanted."

Yet the two groups should not dwell on nostalgia for the civil rights battles of the past, but on working together on issues of common concern: economics, housing, health care and education, Ms. Landsberg warned in the manual.

"This book was not about our past, but about our futures," she said yesterday.

"It's about communities that can come together and coalesce around a common concern."

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