LOS ANGELES, Jan. 9 (JTA) – It’s a rainy Monday morning in Los Angeles, and the children of Watts and the children of Beverly Hills are sitting together in the auditorium of the Jordan High School in South Central LosAngeles.
Rabbi Marc Schneier is on stage, as is Martin Luther King III, and even the ninth graders are paying attention.
The problems between the Jewish and African American communities are often discussed, but King, the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Schneier, the president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, want to talk about shared dreams.
Schneier has developed a one-day school curriculum, based on his book “Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King & the Jewish Community,” to which King wrote the foreward.
The book and the school curriculum, distributed to 350 schools in New York and Los Angeles, use the words and inspiration of King’s father, Martin Luther King, Jr., to foster better relations between African-Americans and Jews. Used in addition to the Anti-Defamation League’s A World of Difference program, the curriculum focuses on Jewish and African American struggles together for civil rights.
Schneier demonstrates that the elder King drew inspiration from the Old Testament, his personal friendships with prominent Jews like Abraham Joshua Heschel and his strong public support for Jewish struggles in Israel and the Soviet Union. With as a model, he tells students that civil rights has been a struggle fought by both peoples together.
The joint school assembly with Jordan and Milken students brings a personal touch to the readings and class discussion.
Both schools’ choirs help out, separately singing “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, and the African American spiritual “Lift Every Voice” then joining together for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“I’ve seen and met new people,” said Milken Junior Teddy Seidman, 16, “I think I need that.”