The sometimes volatile relationship
between blacks and Jews in this country receives a great deal of attention
often created by loud and antagonistic voices on the fringe of
the debate but little open-minded, even-handed discourse. When
Maurianne Adams and John Bracey set out to bring such a discussion of
black-Jewish relations to UMass in 1996, through a faculty seminar at
the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, they found a dearth
of material to build upon.
In response, Adams, a lecturer in the school
of education, and Bracey, professor of Afro-American studies, edited,
and have now published, an 800-page anthology of readings on the subject.
Strangers & Neighbors, Relations between Blacks & Jews in
the United States offers contemporary perspectives from such writers
and scholars as Derrick Bell, Nat Hentoff, Bayard Rustin, Julius Lester,
and Julian Bond, who provided the introduction. The volume also uses historical
documents newspaper accounts, letters, wills, musical scores
to explore such sensitive subjects as Jewish involvement in the slave
trade, black anti-Semitism and Jewish racism, and southern lynchings of
both blacks and Jews.
Their focus in Strangers and Neighbors,
the editors say, was on "minimizing the tendency toward comparing
degrees of suffering," and "posing an 'Us and Them' framework."
As a compilation of varying viewpoints, Adams told the Boston Herald,
"The book goes against stereotyping and it goes against mythologizing
and against glorification of a group."
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