A panel discussion with Rabbi Marc Schneier, hip-hop founder Russell Simmons, and Rabbi Moshe Shur was held at the Goldstein Theater at Queens College in Flushing on March 15, sponsored by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Hillel of Queens College. The group talked about the relations between African-American and Jewish communities and their effect on the world.
"There is no question about the well documented history where Blacks and Jews have stood together in their fight for civil rights, equality and political power," Simmons said.
Many examples exist of how African- Americans and Jews have come together to fight against hatred and bigotry. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an ardent supporter of Israel and the Jewish people, including taking part in efforts to ease discrimination against Jews in the Soviet Union and the safety and security of the state of Israel. King also spoke out strongly against anti-Semitism in the United States. Jews and African-Americans also marched together in the streets of Birmingham and Washington, D.C. during the civil rights movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Ku Klux Klan during the "Freedom Summer" of 1964 murdered two Jewish men from New York, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, and African-American James Chaney. Their bodies were found just outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi.
"The Jewish community has been able to sympathize with the struggles facing African-Americans because we too were once enslaved," Schneier said.
The Hollis-born Simmons recalled the days when white gangs like the infamous "Green Ways" would chase him home from school. "I would run to a white and Jewish housing development where the kids and mothers accepted me," Simmons said. "It was here that I learned the difference between the various whites in Queens."
"There is good in all of us," Shur said.
Read more in the Queens Gazette.