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Posts Tagged ‘African Americans’

Obama’s Popularity Sinks to One Point above All-Time Low

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

President Barack Obama’s approval has sunk to only one percentage point above the all-time low in November 2011, according to a new poll released Wednesday by NBC and The Wall Street Journal.

Only 45 percent approve of his job as president, and 50 percent said they disapprove, mainly because of their view of his handling, or mishandling, the economy.

The most serious drop in his support was among African-Americans, whose support for President Obama now is 10 points less than it was in June and 15 points below the level in April.

The American public is even less happy with Congress. A grand total of 12 percent of the respondents gave the legislative body an approval rating, tying it to the previous all-time low.

Reminder: Mid-term elections are more than a year away.

Why Do Some Jewish Groups Have A Problem With Legal Protection For Jewish Students?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Imagine if the NAACP had responded with skepticism to the passage of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and urged African Americans to exercise their civil rights cautiously under this law. Title VI was landmark legislation when it was passed in 1964 to remedy racial and ethnic discrimination in programs receiving federal funding.

In fact, the NAACP fought for Title VI’s passage and has vigorously sought to enforce it to uphold the right of African Americans to be free from discrimination.

Jewish students are facing their own serious problems of harassment and discrimination at schools receiving federal funding. After a six-year campaign by the Zionist Organization of America, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, finally clarified in October 2010 that Jewish students finally would be afforded the same protection from harassment and discrimination under Title VI that other minorities have enjoyed for close to 50 years.

Yet instead of embracing the new legal protection, some in the Jewish community have been strangely critical of it.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs describes itself as “the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community” in the Jewish community relations field. Its national member agencies include the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and more than 100 Jewish community relations councils throughout the country. A year after the policy clarification from the Office for Civil Rights, the JCPA proposed a resolution regarding Title VI. Instead of praising the new policy and committing to a nationwide campaign to educate Jewish students and university officials about students’ right to be protected from anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination under Title VI, the JCPA resolution tried to impose unreasonably harsh standards on when Jewish students should use the law to rectify a hostile anti-Semitic school environment – stricter even than the standards that the Office for Civil Rights applies.

Critics of the new Title VI policy have paid little attention to the fact that the policy has already shown its value.

University of California President Mark Yudof recently issued a public statement in which he condemned anti-Semitic harassment on the UC campuses.

Last month, Rutgers University President Richard McCormick issued a statement publicly condemning a student paper, The Medium, for falsely claiming that an article mocking the Holocaust had been written by a vocal Jewish, pro-Israel student.

McCormick said that “no individual student should be subject to such a vicious, provocative, and hurtful piece, regardless of whether First Amendment protections apply to such expression.”

Significantly, McCormick had failed to condemn previous anti-Semitic incidents on campus. It is likely that OCR’s Title VI policy, which recommends that university leaders label certain incidents as anti-Semitic, played a role in the decisions of both McCormick and Yudof to speak out. Surely also at play was the fact that there are Title VI investigations pending against their schools.

The David Project recently issued a report about rethinking Israel advocacy on campus. Curiously, the report cautions that “legitimate efforts to combat campus anti-Semitism could be complicated by overly aggressive complaints” under Title VI. But what are “legitimate efforts”? And what does the David Project mean by “overly aggressive”? Only weeks after the Office for Civil Rights issued its new Title VI policy, the ZOA was able to use it effectively without even filing a complaint with the OCR. We contacted officials at a Maine high school where there was longstanding anti-Semitic harassment and informed them of their Title VI obligations. The school acted on nearly all our recommendations and rectified the situation.

Would the David Project consider our actions legitimate or overly aggressive? What if school officials had refused to fix the problems? Would a Title VI complaint then have been legitimate?

It is difficult to understand why members of the Jewish community are skeptical of a critical new legal tool under Title VI or why they are sending a cautious message about using it.

We should be fully supportive of Jewish students and holding schools accountable when they don’t respond to campus anti-Semitism.

It’s time for us to stop being “shah-still” frightened Jews of the previous generation and start strongly speaking out on behalf of our Jewish brethren when necessary.

Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America. Susan B. Tuchman is the director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice.

African-Americans For Obama

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

There is something off-putting about President Obama’s having announced in a video that his reelection campaign was launching a movement called “African-Americans for Obama.” The unease is not over an appeal to a particular ethnic group, which is a hallmark of American political campaigns.

What is disconcerting is that in this case it was not a group of supporters who announced the effort but rather the president himself. And the pitch is not limited to the claim that as president Mr. Obama has done much for a community that has special needs. In context, the unmistakable message is “Vote for me because I look like you.”

Thus, while speaking on the video about what he said were his accomplishments for all Americans, he talked about the great sacrifices many had made to be able “to cast a ballot” and then went on to note that “Their efforts made it possible for somebody like me to be here today.” He went on to urge African-Americans to “keep making history.” And there were several cuts to images of African-American life and culture.

Though it was all carefully nuanced, it is difficult to recall the last time a political message by a sitting president was so palpably racial. And this from the man who told us he aspired to be the “post-racial president.”

Who Owns You?

Friday, November 25th, 2011

We’ve fought for woman’s rights, and equality for African Americans and other minorities, but our challenges are far from over. Our final war has yet to be won. Historically, we’ve always been battling to be free from the shackles of other peoples’ control. But we’ve never fought to become free from our own limitations, probably the most difficult hurdle of all. We’ve never struggled to gain complete happiness for ourselves.

True, there is the reality of outside forces that need to be lifted in order to achieve complete happiness, and removing those burdens from our lives would certainly help. However, we will never feel the sweet taste of freedom until we realize that we control our moods, mindsets and actions. No situation or individual, regardless of how painful or powerful, can affect our emotions or decide our destiny. You are the captain of your own ship, the master of your soul, and most of your pains and fears stem from feeling a lack of control. If you would embed in your heart and mind that the reins are in your hands, you will turn sadness into pleasure. You will no longer fear life.

Nelson Mandela knew this and that’s what enabled him to take a country that was divided beyond divide, and unite South Africans into one nation. That’s what gave him the courage and confidence to become the leader of a country whose political system had incarcerated him for 33 years.

A true leader must not only understand the truth but also believe in it. Leaders who make a difference must forgo their own egos, and not take every naysayer’s words as personal accusations. Leadership is about those being led, their goals and benefits, and the leader is the catalyst and conduit to help the people attain them.  Perhaps it doesn’t happen right away, but ultimately, constituents catch on and can discern one who pursues his own agenda as opposed to the leader who believes and acts for the greater good.  They also soon become aware of the impact his or her place in office will have on achieving the goals of others.

This may be obvious to the general populace when it comes to voting for or against political candidates. However, we are all leaders even when we aren’t aware of it. We can make a difference in a school, community project or simply in the life of a younger person who crosses our paths. To be effective, we have to cut through the clutter of naysayers (who will always raise their negative voices) in order to see the bigger picture. Our best defense against negativity is belief in our own voices and the ability to ignore those who try to squelch progress and growth. It is not about us – the “spoilers” need to deride nobility and altruism in others in order to assuage their own narcissism.

Let’s take this even further and confront the mirror, which reflects the person we lead more than any other – ourselves. If we look to others’ reactions to gauge our own portrait, we empower the distorted image to skew a true view of our own talents and abilities.

Think about this: When you feel inferior because of another’s words or deeds, you gave him or her control of your own self. Reinstate that control. You’re probably thinking that the above makes no sense.  You may be saying, “If a person made fun of me in front of other people, of course, I’d be insulted; that doesn’t mean that he or she controls me.” Well, translate what you just said: “I gave power to all those other people to determine my reactions.” Stop putting other people in charge of your own self-worth.

Try this next time someone slights you or a friend doesn’t invite you along on a trip or to a party. Regain control – not by being nasty, but by doing something really nice for that person. “What? I have pride and nobody gets away with hurting me.” You may be right, but think about your two options. One, no longer consider that person a friend, because no friend would have acted that way. Or two, let the person know that the slight will not remain unnoticed and you will avenge your hurt feelings.

Think about it. If you choose the second option, like many of us would, in essence you’re saying that person’s friendship is valuable to you – because otherwise you would just walk away. So the most foolish thing you could do now is to strike back, which would send the opposite message.  If you do that, then in the end you will lose what you desire. If the friendship is of value, you can realize that the friend wasn’t deliberately abusing you, but committed an oversight or there was some unrelated outside factor.  Try going out of your way for that friend, sending the message that you understand that the nasty words or actions were not intended to hurt you. Watch how your friendships and self-worth soar.

Remembering Babe Ruth’s Concern For Jews During The Holocaust

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

The New York Yankees and their fans observe April 27 as Babe Ruth Day to remember the home run slugger’s exploits on the baseball diamond. Jewish New Yorkers, however, this year marked the day by remembering another side of Ruth – his little-known efforts to aid African-Americans and other minorities, including Jews in Europe during the Holocaust.

In a program at Temple Israel in Manhattan, Ruth’s granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti, joined with Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, to describe their research on Ruth’s social activism. Rabbi William Gelfand, sporting a baseball cap with “Yankees” embroidered on it in Hebrew, emceed the event.

Tosetti shared with the standing-room-only audience a number of family stories illustrating her grandfather’s concern for the less fortunate. She also showed an excerpt from her forthcoming documentary film, “Universal Babe,” concerning Ruth’s efforts on behalf of minorities.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Ruth courted controversy in the off-season by barnstorming with players from the Negro Baseball League. At a time when racial segregation was rampant in the United States, Ruth defied convention and took part in exhibition games with African-American players.

“My grandfather made a powerful statement against racism,” Tosetti said. “Many people resented his actions – but they couldn’t lynch Babe Ruth. He was an American icon. And he used his status to demand equality for blacks.”
 
 

Ruth also actively assisted the Women’s Baseball League, which was later immortalized in the Tom Hanks film “A League of Their Own.”

Dr. Medoff spoke of Ruth’s key role in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times in December 1942, in which he and other German-Americans denounced the Nazis’ persecution of European Jewry.

“At a time when most Americans still doubted the truth about reports about the Holocaust, and few were interested in helping Jewish refugees, Ruth spoke out and tried to shatter the silence,” he said.

The ad, headlined “A Christmas Declaration by Men and Women of German Ancestry,” declared, in part: “[W]e Americans of German descent raise our voices in denunciation of the Hitler policy of cold-blooded extermination of the Jews of Europe and against the barbarities committed by the Nazis against all other innocent peoples under their sway,” the declaration began.

“These horrors … are, in particular, a challenge to those who, like ourselves, are descendants of the Germany that once stood in the foremost ranks of civilization.”

The ad went on to “utterly repudiate every thought and deed of Hitler and his Nazis,” and urged the people of Germany “to overthrow” the Nazi regime.

Medoff, who has written extensively about the involvement of athletes in political and social policy controversies, said Ruth’s willingness to participate in a protest against the persecution of European Jewry was “a welcome contrast with today’s athletes, whose off-field activities are too often sources of scandal and embarrassment.”

Widely regarded as the greatest baseball player in history, Ruth in his time held the records for most home runs in a season (60) and most home runs in a career (714) as well as other records – including the pitching record for the most shutouts in a season by a left-hander. The Sultan of Swat, as he was known, was one of the first players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The audience at Temple Israel also had a few standard questions for the baseball legend’s granddaughter. One attendee asked if there was any truth to the story that on one occasion Ruth gestured with his bat toward the center field fence, and then hit a home run in exactly in that place.

“Absolutely true,” said Tosetti.

The ‘S’ Word Has No Place In A Religious Jew’s Vocabulary

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

     Last week I delivered a sermon based on the Torah portion of the week and which compared Moses, the great Jewish redeemer, with Abraham Lincoln, the martyred American emancipator. When I finished, I was approached by an acquaintance who happens to be an Orthodox Jewish engineer. He seemed, up until that time, to be devout, educated, and sophisticated. But what he told me was sacrilegious, ignorant, and primitive.
 
      This gentleman maintained that Lincoln was no hero, seeing as he had freed a people who were the descendants of Ham, the son of Noah, who was cursed for humiliating his father. “Ham’s children are black, and are condemned by God to eternal slavery,” he said. “There was even a rebbe in Poland who predicted that Abraham Lincoln would be shot for liberating a people against God’s wishes.”
 
      I looked this man in the eye and said to him, “I’m confused. Judaism believes that every man is judged according to his actions. Now you are telling me that every black person in the world is cursed for something an ancestor did millennia ago. We Jews don’t believe in Original Sin, and we don’t believe in vertical accountability. So how can you tell me something so abominably racist like the fact that blacks are cursed?”
 
      He responded that I was denying scripture. I told him that his views were repugnant to everything Judaism stood for in terms of the equality of all mankind. And on an angry note, our mini-debate ended.
 
      I would not even mention this unhappy episode if I had not, at times, heard similar sentiments expressed by others purporting to be religious.
 
      The foundation of Judaism is God’s moral law. The cornerstone of the Bible is that every human being is created in God’s image. One cannot call oneself a religious Jew and harbor even the smallest hint of racism.
 

      Which is why it is time for all Jews to forever retire the odious term “shvartza.”

      From the time I was a boy I have heard the word shvartza used by many Jews to describe blacks. These were decent people with no intention of causing offense. To them, the term connoted nothing more than the Yiddish word for black. But, truth be told, the term has become one of condescension; a pejorative, a word that incorporates within it a hint of derision.
 
      My children were raised around many black men and women who are close family friends. From Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, who is like a brother to me, to Peter Noel, my esteemed colleague and former co-host on America’s oldest black radio station, to countless others, our Shabbos table has been a home away from home for African-Americans whom we have treated as family. So when my children went to a chassidic sleep-away camp one summer and heard the expression shvartza thrown about so loosely, they returned upset and disillusioned.
 
      When they asked me why so many religious Jews used the term, I had no real explanation. The overwhelming majority of religious Jews are committed to the highest humanitarian and ethical standards. Racism, to them, would be utterly unconscionable. So why use the term? There is no excuse. And it must be permanently retired.
 
      I have wanted to write this column ever since my children expressed their indignation, but refrained from doing so for fear it might be misunderstood as implying that there is racism among Orthodox Jews. To be sure, there is racism among all groups, just as there is, unfortunately, anti-Semitism among all groups. It seems that humanity is destined to forever harbor irrational hatred, even as we do our utmost to stamp it out. But of late, I have heard the term shvartza with such frequency that it could no longer be ignored. My children were absolutely right and we must all speak out.
 
      Yes, there may be racism among other groups. But among Jews it is especially reprehensible.
 
      First, because we Jews know what it is like to be hated simply for being what we are.
 
      Second, because Jews and blacks share a common spiritual history that includes slavery and emancipation, followed by discrimination and a shared yearning for entry into a promised land of acceptance and hope. We share also a mutual love for the redemptive utterances of the great Hebrew prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Micah, which formed the backbone of the most memorable speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.
 
      Third – and this applies to religious Jews even more than to non-observant Jews – because we Jews are entrusted by God with spreading the message that all human beings are God’s children. The first great theological declaration of the Torah is that all people are created in the divine likeness.
 
      I don’t think there is anything as off-putting in a religious person as even a hint of racism. When a businessman wearing a yarmulke uses the word shvartza, he undermines the spiritual integrity for which that yarmulke stands.
 
      I spent the last week reading a book on the Middle Ages. Peter Abelard, the great medieval Catholic thinker, was castrated for his illicit love of Heloise. But he was hated even more for writing, so long ago, that Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus and could not be persecuted as deicides. Christianity had to go through many more centuries before it finally began purging Jew-hatred from its institutional soul.
 
      Likewise, many Muslims are today infected by an irrational hatred of Jews that belies Islamic history and which cannot be accounted for merely by the territorial dispute between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Such racist views are a sin against Islam which subscribes to the biblical belief of the divine character of all humanity.
 
      Religious Jews, especially, must never empower such heretical views by harboring even the slightest hint of bigotry or prejudice.
 
      It is not just the Jewish engineer who told me that blacks were cursed by God. I once heard the same despicable view from the mouth of a teacher in a Jewish day school. Rabbis must be at the forefront of arguing the theological absurdity of such disgusting and ignorant ideas so that a generation of Jewish children grows up to love all humanity with the same fervent intensity of the first Jew, Abraham, whose very name means “the father of many nations.”
 

      Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the host of TLC’s “Shalom in the Home,” the new season of which begins airing on March 4. His upcoming book, named after the TV show, will be released on the same day and is published by Meredith. Rabbi Boteach’s website is www.shmuley.com.

Title: The Strike That Changed New York

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2003

Title: The Strike That Changed New York
Author: Jerald E. Podair
Publisher: Yale University Press, New Haven, CT

 

 

There are moments in time that define an era, and for New York’s ethnic communities of African-Americans and Jews that moment came on May 9th, 1968, when Fred Nauman, a junior high school teacher in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville area of Brooklyn and 18 other educators received letters telling them that the predominantly African-American local school district had fired them. All of the educators were whites, and most of them were Jewish.

Almost until that moment Jews and ‘blacks’ had forged a partnership that worked toward
gaining civil rights for all Americans. Jews were prominent in many civil rights groups, including
the NAACP, and Jewish ‘Freedom Riders’ were killed in Mississippi for supporting African-
American strivings for equality and civil liberty.

The teacher firings, and the (predominantly Jewish) UFT (United Federation of Teachers)
strike that ensued from them, brought nascent anti-Semitism in the black community to the fore. At best, in their response, black leaders appeared indifferent to anti-Semitism, and at worst, were accomplices to it. Egged on by such activists at Albert Vann and Leslie Campbell (who read anti-Semitic poetry over the airwaves on WBAI-FM), African-Americans came to view (UFT President) Albert Shanker’s teachers as ”white interlopers” coming to rob their children of their African-American heritage.

The white teachers relied on the standard canons of education promulgated by New York’s
central Board of Education, while the local school board wanted their African-American history and culture to be taught by teachers more sensitive to the esteem of their children.

The Jewish UFT teachers were a proxy for ‘all white men’ whom the ghetto-dwelling African-
Americans viewed as culturally keeping them down. The fact that Jews predominated in the
teaching profession was a cultural phenomenon at least partially caused by exclusion from good jobs in Corporate America and other agencies of government. The ‘merit’ system, with job and advancement opportunities offered by the Board of Education was ideal for an upwardly mobile group seeking employment.

The entire system of teacher-to-supervisor-to-department chair-to-principal, etc. was, like in
Confucist China, a system of bureaucracy that encouraged the college-educated Jewish children of immigrants to pursue careers in the government-controlled educational system. Passing examinations and accumulating graduate degrees were more than a path to material success – this was a manifestation of the marketplace competition of self-reliant individuals who are being judged by standards of  ‘objective merit’ divorced from considerations of racial group origin. For the Jewish children of immigrants who were persecuted in Europe just for being Jewish.

On the other hand, many blacks, who had suffered many inequalities in educational and
employment (aside from many other social, housing and economic) opportunities, jealously
viewed these upwardly mobile Jews who bypassed them as interlopers in the educational process of their youth.

The crisis in race relations between Jews and black that resulted from Ocean Hill-Brownsville
has still not cleared up and was one of the contributing causes of the race riot that caused the
death of Yankel Rosenbaum in Crown Heights many years later. Podair, a winner of the Allan
Nevins Prize of the Society of American Historians, has written a powerful book that tells the entire story of this confrontation from both sides of the picket lines and examines a watershed experience in modern New York City race relations.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/title-the-strike-that-changed-new-york/2003/12/03/

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