Sammy Davis Says Blacks and Jews Should Be Locked into Each Other
Menu JTA Search

Sammy Davis Says Blacks and Jews Should Be Locked into Each Other

Download PDF for this date

Sammy Davis Jr., the famed entertainer, said last night he saw no reason for enmity between Blacks and Jews. “If any two people have a right to be locked in together just in terms of what has happened to them, Blacks and Jews should be locked in,” he said showing his hands clasped together.

Davis, a Black who converted to Judaism pearly 25 years ago, made his comments in response to questions from Dr. William Berkowitz, rabbi of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in the concluding program of the congregation’s “Dialogue ’78” series. He was applauded frequently by the more than 3000 persons who jammed the Manhattan synagogue as well as by another large group which listened in an adjoining building.

Recalling the participation of Jews in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and in the civil rights movement of the 1950s, and 1960s, Davis said he could not understand why same young Blacks are anti-Semitic. “Didn’t anyone tell them?” he asked. “Doesn’t anyone care?”

Davis said his greatest concern was the racism that existed in society. “I can’t understand why we can’t coexist with each other,” he declared. He said it seemed to be getting worse not better and noted it was not only groups against other groups but “Jews against Jews, Blacks against Blacks, gentiles against gentiles.” He declared he had seen too many good people “wiped out” either “emotionally” or by “bullets” simply because they tried “to bring people together.”


Describing his own conversion which was preceded by more than five years of reading and studying about Judaism, Davis said “Judaism was an answer for me. I was looking for a reason to exist beyond the applause.” Davis said he is “proud to be a Black Jew.” He recalled all the years of “the bad tasteless jokes” and said he felt it was “worth that and twice as much” when he saw his son becoming Bar Mitzvahed.

Davis, who expects to make his fourth visit to Israel early next year, said he first went there to entertain wounded after the 1967 Six-Day War. He said he was especially pleased to find that so many Israelis were dark-skinned. He stressed his commitment to Israel.

At the conclusion, Berkowitz, noting that Davis recently celebrated his 53rd birthday and that next week was Chanukah, presented the entertainer with a menorah, saying Davis symbolized the message of Chanukah because he was never afraid “to stand up for what he believed in.” Davis, overcome with emotion, embraced the rabbi to the loud applause of the audience.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund