Black-Jewish Student Unity Dinner Series Continues in Atlanta



April 4, 2024

Earlier this year, Dillard University partnered with Tulane Hillel in New Orleans to host the first in a series of unity dinners aimed at bringing together students from Black and Jewish communities. Created by Dr. John Eaves of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Black and Jewish Leaders of Tomorrow (BJLOT), in close partnership with Hillel International, the goal of the series is to enable a new generation of Black and Jewish college students to build relationships, learn about commonalities and differences through personal stories, and come together around shared values and priorities, such as combating antisemitism, anti-Black racism, and bigotry of all kinds.

On March 28, the series continued with a gathering at The Temple, a synagogue in Atlanta, Georgia. Nearly 40 Black and Jewish college students from Agnes Scott College, Clark Atlanta University, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University, Morehouse College, Emory University, and Spelman College attended the event, which was co-hosted by Hillel International, United Negro College Fund, Hillels of Georgia, the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, and Gratz College.

“What a great honor to host this Unity Dinner at the Temple, the place once led by Senior Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, who had a strong friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both of these men worked tirelessly to address discrimination against Blacks in Atlanta and other parts of the south,” said Dr. Eaves. “ I hope that this new generation of Black and Jewish emerging leaders will be inspired to rekindle this historical alliance to address antisemitism and racism on college campuses today.”

The evening’s program included remarks by special guests including Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund. For the majority of the evening, Black, Jewish and Black Jewish students engaged over dinner in both facilitated and informal conversations with students of different identities and school affiliations.

“The evening reminded me of something that’s often easier to forget: the importance of conversation,” said Jane Scanlan-Emigh, a student from Agnes Scott College. “Conversation gives rise to connection, which helps dissolve ignorance. Ignorance means unknownness, and unknownness breeds fear. Fear leads to division, which makes it impossible for us to fight for liberation for both of our peoples.”

At tables that blended those from different college communities, students were able to connect and communicate, talk about their campus environments, and find common ground. They also spoke about seeking community and safe spaces, finding pride in their identities, and fighting for what they believe in amid discrimination.

“There’s a Buddhist phrase I like to share with students as a goal for all of us, which is to have a strong back, and a soft front,” said Adina Danzig Epelman, vice president for engagement and impact at Hillel International. “Each of us, regardless of our backgrounds, should be confident in and enriched by our own identities, and at the same time, very open to learning about the experiences of others, and coming together to speak out against hate, no matter who is targeted.”