WASHINGTON (Jul. 19)
Two major American Jewish organizations have moved to heal the breach between Jews and Blacks that developed during Rev. Jesse Jackson’s campaign for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination.
George Kraft, president of B’nai B’rith International, sent a telegram to Jackson yesterday offering a meeting with him “at the earliest possible date” aimed at revitalizing the badly shaken Black-Jewish coalition.
Rabbi Alexander Shapiro of South Orange, N.J., president of the 1,200 member Rabbinical Assembly, the international body of Conservative rabbis, said today that his organization was ready to join with other Jewish organizations in any meeting that was arranged with Jackson and other Black leaders in the near future. He said such a meeting was urgently needed to begin putting Black-Jewish relations “back on the track.”
RESPONSE TO JACKSON’S SPEECH
These offers were clearly in response to Jackson’s speech to the Democratic national convention in San Francisco Tuesday night in which he appealed for reconciliation and asked forgiveness for remarks that offended Jews.
Jackson said, “If in my low moments, in word, deed or attitude, through error of temper, taste or tone, I have caused anyone discomfort, created pain or revived someone’s fear, that was not my truest self. If there were occasions when my grape turned into a raisin and my joy bell lost its resonance, please forgive me. Charge it to my head and not my heart.”
In an appearance on the NBC-TV “Meet the Press” program last Sunday, he said that he regretted remarks he may have made that alienated the Jewish community and felt there is a need for “a summit meeting” between Blacks and Jews very soon.
CITES ‘COMPELLING APPEAL’
In his telegram to Jackson yesterday, Kraft said the B’nai B’rith “is deeply gratified” by Jackson’s “compelling appeal” for the revival of Black-Jewish unity. “We agree that our history together has been blessed with a shared commitment to peace and justice and that we must dedicate ourselves to understanding and mending the hurt and disappointments each side has felt in recent days and years,” the B’nai B’rith leader said.
He reminded Jackson that many Jews “have been profoundly distressed” by the divisive events of the campaign. “But we welcome your speech as a first step in a necessary and promising process of reconciliation and healing,” Kraft said.
He added: “As Jews and Blacks, we must draw strength from our mutual history and dreams and move on, as you so eloquently said, to a higher ground.” Kraft cautioned however that this does not mean that all Jews will agree on all issues that divide them from Blacks. “But we must make every effort to understand and to learn from each other’s hopes and experiences.”
Shapiro, in urging a meeting of Jews with Jackson and other Black leaders, called for a return to the Black-Jewish partnership of the early ’60s when the civil rights movement was in full flower.
“We in the Jewish community remain committed to the ideals and values taught together by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and are ready to work with members of the Black community in bringing about a closer tie and working relationship in confronting the problems that face us both, ” he said.
The Conservative rabbi expressed “admiration at the eloquence of Rev. Jackson’s speech at the Democratic Party convention. I was particularly moved by his evocation of the spirit of Rabbi Heschel and Dr. King who often worked together on behalf of human rights. The alliance of the past between the Jewish community, with its prophetic tradition of justice and the Black community is still very much alive,” Shapiro declared.
“It is hoped that the Rev. Jackson’s apology, consistent with the Jewish notion of teshuvah (repentence) will translate into deeds in the days tocome, deeds that reject the odious anti-Semitism of Mr. (Black Muslim leader Louis) Farrakhan that remains of deep concern to the Jewish community,” Shapiro said.
ONE SPEECH CAN’T REMOVE THE SCARS
In another reaction to Jackson’s speech, Jacqueline Levine, chairperson of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, said: “We welcome Jesse Jackson’s recognition that the intrusion of anti-Semitism in the electoral campaign has indeed been painful.
One speech, however impressive and heartening, cannot remove the scars inflicted over the past eight months. We look to the conciliatory spirit of this speech being reflected in the days and weeks ahead in the speeches and actions of Jesse Jackson.”
Levine added, “In the meantime, we will continue to work with other Black leaders, nationally and locally, with whom we have long-standing and close relations through our joint efforts in seeking to achieve our comm## goals of equal rights, justice and opportunity for all Americans.”