As we enter the holy seasons of Hannukah and Christmas, I am appalled and hurt by the rise of anti-Semitism in our country.
To Ye (Kanye West), I say, shame on you!
To the Holocaust deniers, I say, shame on you!
To the universities that continue to maintain Jewish quotas,
I say, shame on you.
I devote today’s blog to my personal connectedness with the Jewish people, by sharing excerpts from a chapter in my book.
Go Down Moses
When the word friend comes to mind, I am immediately transported back to age four, when I first met my next-door neighbor and lifelong friend Janice. And at the same time, through her, I was introduced to Judaism, as she shared Passover and Hannukah celebrations, as well as enough Yiddish for me to get by.
My association with Jewish people was as natural to me as breathing. In my experience, our hearts and cultures had always been intertwined. As a Black person growing up in the 1950’s, my Jewish friends were always by my side even at times when my own Christian people turned their backs on me.
Our shared oppression translated into inspiration and mutual compassion. We held a mutual tradition regarding education as well. For Blacks and Jews alike, subtle and overt exclusion from an array of career opportunities could be overcome with the right education. That was something that “they could never take from you.”
Shortly after my seventeenth birthday, my father died suddenly, and my mother abruptly became a widow, responsible for putting me through college. It was a Jewish friend of my mom, who came to the rescue. Armed with the resources of her background as an educator, Mom’s friend steered us through the financial labyrinth leading to my affordable university education.
Today, my friends are astonished when they learn that I had been Vice President of Sigma Delta Tau, a premier Jewish sorority. In the ‘50s, sororities and fraternities were at the heart of campus social life. White Christian sororities denied membership to Blacks and Jews alike. Since, at the time, my college admitted very few Blacks, we were embraced under the umbrella of the Jewish sororities and fraternities.
Entering the ‘60s, and the emergence of the freedom marches, it was Jewish college students who left New York on buses sitting side-by-side with Blacks, and marching arm in arm throughout the South.
Back in the day, we were sustained by the triumphant legacy of the Jews, as the old Negro spiritual resounded in our Black churches: “Go down Moses, way down to Egypt land. Tell ol’ pharaoh to let my people go.”
“Amy, which one of you is Jewish, you or your husband?” A strange question asked of me when I was well into my adulthood. “Why neither of us,” I responded. “Then why,” asked my friend, “do you hang out with Jews so much?” I explained to him my lifelong bond that arose out of social necessity and is maintained through love.
In a season that should be promoting unity and love, I stand in solidarity with the Jewish people.