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Neighborly Undertakings
A scholarly anthology on Jewish-black relations

Photo: Adams and Bracey

Avoiding "Us and Them": Maurianne Adams and John Bracey at New Africa House
 


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 The volume also uses historical documents – newspaper accounts, letters, wills, musical scores – to explore such sensitive subjects as Jewish involvement in the slave trade, black anti-Semitism and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."

– Ben Barnhart

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