NCCJ: no end to the mission

July 23, 1992

It would be reassuring to think the Maryland Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews was a victim of its own success -- that it was disbanding because problems of bigotry and religious prejudice no longer exist. Sadly, that is not the case.

Yesterday, the Other Voices page featured a compelling article by Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of Harvard University's Afro-American Studies Department, decrying the latest revival of anti-Semitism in this country. This time the ancient scourge is being encouraged by black intellectuals, and it is driving a wedge between blacks and Jews, whose partnership helped achieve many of this country's greatest victories for social justice.

Anti-Semitism is sometimes viewed largely as a problem for the Jewish community, since that is its target. That notion is simply wrong. The NCCJ has long recognized that religious prejudice in any form is just as much a problem for those who perpetuate it and for those whose silence allows it to exist. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."

In recent years, Americans have been lulled into thinking that violent forms of religious and ethnic prejudice were a thing of the past. Anyone who has taken comfort in that thought need only look at Yugoslavia, where Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Muslims are furiously brutalizing each other in the name of "ethnic cleansing."

In Maryland, the NCCJ has worked valiantly against the kind of thinking that allows such deadly prejudice to flourish. Its work is not done, but competing demands for funds and for volunteers' time became too great. Even so, the legacy of the NCCJ in Maryland will live on in other efforts to foster cooperation and to stem the tide of hatred.

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