LISTEN: Founders of the Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations talk race and equality
People of the Pod

LISTEN: Founders of the Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations talk race and equality

Episode #24: US congressional reps get down to brass tacks on race relations * What’s up with Israel’s 3rd election on March 2? * Israel’s bid for more international students

This week on People of the Pod, three members of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations speak about the purpose of the alliance, and how it has evolved since the body was formed last year by the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition, a segment of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

Weekly podcast People of the Pod is produced in cooperation between the AJC and The Times of Israel, and examines current events through a Jewish lens.

Anti-Semitic verbal and violent attacks perpetrated against visibly Orthodox Jews in the metropolitan areas of New York and New Jersey, along with vandalism and destruction of property, have reached crisis levels in recent months.

Many of the attacks concentrated in this area come from members of the African-American community. The phenomenon is troubling to African-American leadership nationwide, and many leaders are surprised to even learn of the problem’s existence. These attacks also differ in nature from anti-Semitic attacks in the rest of the country, which in the last few years have most often stemmed from far-right extremists and white supremacists.

Leaders from both the Jewish and African-American communities, as well as authorities in New York tasked with finding a solution to the problem, see education and cooperation as essential to fostering coexistence. Until now, in the New York and New Jersey areas, the communities have lived side by side, but many members seldom engage in meaningful interaction.

Illustrative: In this August 19, 2002, file photo, Carmel Cato, center, reaches out to embrace Norman Rosenbaum, right, as they walk together in a show of unity into a New York restaurant on the 11th anniversary of the 1991 Crown Heights riots sparked by the deaths of Cato’s 7-year-old son Gavin Cato and the murder of Rosenbaum’s brother Yankel, an Australian student. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Jewish and Democratic representative from Florida, cites strong relations between Jewish and African-Americans going back to the Civil Rights movement that continued as the black community lent its support following shooting attacks by white supremacists on synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, California.

“That history is long and significant, and so the caucus is really important for us to retie those binds and make sure that we can work on the modern-day issues that are of mutual concern to both communities,” Wasserman Schultz tells People of the Pod co-host Manya Brachear Pashman.

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Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Michigan says that “specifically during this administration, I have seen an uptick in divisiveness and racial tension, and also hate crimes have been… increasing. And we have such a strong and long history of black America and the Jewish community coming together in those times when our country lost its way.”

“Where we see racism not being addressed properly, or being nurtured… we can pass policies and enforce laws through our justice system” to ensure equality for all, Lawrence says.

Also appearing on the podcast are AJC Jerusalem director Avital Leibovitch, who shares the latest developments on Israel’s third election in less than a year, coming up on March 2, and Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, chair of the planning and budgeting committee for Israel’s Council for Higher Education. She discusses a new initiative to double the amount of international students studying in Israeli universities.

Also this week, Times of Israel Jewish World and Archaeology editor Amanda Borschel-Dan grills political correspondent Raoul Wootliff on the endless campaign pivots and power shifts taking place ahead of Israel’s unprecedented third elections.

Wootliff shares with listeners possible scenarios and how likely it is that Israeli citizens will need to take a fourth trip to the ballot boxes.

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