Despite a popular perception that blacks and Jews no longer share a common core of values, their representatives in Congress have been closely aligned on key issues of concern to the two communities, a new study has shown.
The American Jewish Congress conducted a study of the voting patterns of the 399 members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the 32 Jewish members of the House of Representatives on issues important to the Jewish community.
The issue included foreign aid, public funding of private schools and school prayer.
The study built on work done by the black-led Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a highly respected Washington think tank that recently published a “report card” examining the voting records of congressional representatives on issues important to the black community.
The center looked at issues including low-income housing, alternatives for sentencing young people and gun control.
AJCongress analyzed the information and found that “Jewish members of Congress were far more likely to support votes by the Congressional Black Caucus than the other members of the House of Representatives,” according to the report.
By the same token, “on vote after vote, black members of Congress supported the Jewish community position in significantly larger percentages than did other members of Congress.”
The Jewish community position was represented in the study by the AJCongress position, which generally reflects the views of the community at large, but not always.
Jewish members of Congress supported the Black Caucus’ position an average of 72 percent of the time, far in excess of the 49 percent average of the total House.
Likewise, an average of 79 percent of Black Caucus members supported Jewish issues, as opposed to 53 percent of the full House.
“There is more commonality than discordance” between the two ethnic groups when it comes to policy issues, said Flora Perskie, chairman of AJCongress’ Commission on National Affairs, in a news conference Tuesday announcing the results.
Phil Baum, AJCongress executive director, said the purpose of the analysis was “to put the rumors of extremists in both communities to rest.”
The study proves that the perception that blacks and Jews no longer share the dame interests is “unfounded and wrong,” he said.
Also at the news conference was the Rev. Jesse Jackson who met with AJCongress leaders earlier that day.
“Over the centuries our interests have converged again and again. We must not underestimate our power to protect our interests when we coalesce,” said Jackson, who serves as the non-voting shadow senator for D.C. statehood representing the District of Columbia.
Citing an example of how that coalition can work outside Congress, Jackson said that former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke would be governor of Louisiana “if not for the black-Jewish coalition, since 55 percent of whites voted for him” in 1991.
The Rev. Al Sharpton also attended the news conference, though he did not speak.
The alignment of blacks and Jews in the House was in part based on the fact that the majority of both groups were Democrats, according to the report. Their relationship may shift in the newly elected Congress, where there will be nine fewer Jews and a greater proportion of Republicans.