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New Urban League Chief Reaches out to Jews, Meets with Njcrac Leaders

The newly installed chief of the Urban League is making good on his promise to hold dialogues with Jewish groups, meeting this week with 150 members of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council’s Executive Committee.

Hugh Price, who took the helm of the civil rights group in July, said in his remarks to members of the Jewish umbrella group that he is dedicated “to an agenda of racial inclusion,” and is focusing his agency’s efforts on young people.

His goal, said Price, is to help young black Americans get the adult attention, education and employment that they need.

The assembled NJCRAC members came to the daylong meeting held Monday at the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League from national Jewish organizations and community relations councils around the country.

Teaching black parents to be more effective advocates for adequate resources and higher standards in public education is one area on which Price said he plans to focus.

NJCRAC Chair Lynn Lyss, in an interview following Price’s remarks, said that public education is a good “bridge issue,” on which NJCRAC and Urban League members can work together.

“It can be a true partnership between local (Jewish) community relations councils and chapters of the Urban League to try and get over barriers to parental involvement in public schools,” said Lyss. Price “knows that we’re ready to work with them on bridge-building,” said Lyss.

COLLABORATION WITH ‘WHOMEVER IS USEFUL’

During the question-and-answer session, Price was asked the inevitable: How will the Urban League respond to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and the statements he makes, which are widely regarded as anti-Semitic?

Price responded that the Urban League “will collaborate with whomever is useful.”

We “have to dialogue, which does not mean embrace or work with” Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, said Price. He noted the “extraordinary job” the black nationalist group is doing in “saving young people from prison and driving drugs from public housing projects.”

“We have to learn from that,” he said.

Price also voiced the hope that he will not have to spend half his time on the job talking about Farrakhan.

“The first couple of months, I thought I might have to make a career out of it. I spent July talking about Farrakhan and August talking about the NAACP,” he said.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was under fire that month, after its leader, the Rev. Benjamin Chavis, was ousted under a cloud of controversy. Among other controversial issues, Chavis had invited Farrakhan to the group’s leadership summit earlier in the summer.

“In September, finally, I got to talk about the Urban League,” said Price, with great relief.

Quipped former NJCRAC Chair Maynard Wishner, “That’s because the Jewish holidays were in September and we were all busy.”

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