Franklin A. Sonn, the new South African ambassador to the United States, received a warm welcome yesterday in the Baltimore area -- from representatives of black churches and communities and the Jewish community.
He felt quite at home.
"When I look at my big nose, I am reminded of my heritage as a Jew," Mr. Sonn, who is black, told a surprised audience of about 100 at Beth Tfiloh Synagogue, delivering what was described as his first major address in America.
"The greater significance rests in the fact that I -- [and] my son, and my daughter -- represent the two peoples in the world who were subjugated to the worst violations and sufferings ever seen," said Mr. Sonn, whose mother and paternal grandfather were Jewish.
"The struggle is not yet over," Mr. Sonn said.
"The black people of the United States of America and the black people of South Africa are still oppressed.
"We, the black people of America and the black people of the world, must sit closely with our Jewish compatriots in fighting the hatred."
Beth Tfiloh's associate rabbi, Elan Adler, had similar sentiments.
"The significance to us is we are people that share common experiences and heritage as minorities for most of our existence," he said.
"This is a way of bridging relationships, bringing people together."
Mr. Sonn also spoke of black forgiveness of whites and memorialized his friend and colleague, Joe Slovo, the Communist intellectual widely credited with being a mastermind of South Africa's national reconciliation, who died of cancer there last week.
Mr. Sonn also made a request for financial assistance from American businesses.
South Africa, he said, "is a worthwhile investment opportunity" and development of mutual benefit to both countries with an underlying bonus -- "to build and sustain the youngest democracy in the world."