Rebuilding Coalitions

The pursuit of justice and the enhancement of human dignity have always been among the moral imperatives of the Jewish tradition. For years, Jews and Blacks have been natural allies in the struggle for social justice in America, working in coalition for the common cause.

The Board of Trustees of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations reaffirms these deep commitments. At the same time, we are deeply distressed by the atmosphere of harassment, threats of violence, and appeals to prejudice that have been part of the current election campaign. We are troubled that presidential candidates and other leaders of American public opinion have failed to respond adequately to these assaults on the democratic process.

We condemn as indefensible threats of terrorism and reprisals directed against Blacks or Jews, whether emanating from the Jewish Defense League or the Nation of Islam. Inflammatory language, slurs, and stereotypes that foster anti-Semitism and racist attitudes are unrepresentative of the views of the overwhelming majority of the Black and Jewish communities and are morally offensive to most Americans, regardless of race or creed. They must be condemned not only by the targets of the bigotry but by the leaders of all responsible groups and faiths.

Only the haters, seeking to separate us from each other and separate us from the rest of society, benefit from the alienation of Blacks and Jews, each the victim of prejudice and persecution in different ways through the centuries. It is this shared history that makes us natural allies in the struggle for civil rights and that defines us as among the most socially concerned groups in American society. Polarization endangers the democratic process, which is dependent upon the ability to accommodate to one another's deepest held beliefs and to express differences while respecting the dignity and humanity of those with whom we may profoundly disagree.

The trauma of the moment must not be used to justify the Jewish community's withdrawal from our historic commitment to social justice and to cooperative efforts for decency.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, acting through its affiliates, regions, congregations, and Commission on Social Action:

  1. Calls upon responsible Black and Jewish leaders to reconstitute a coalition of conscience that will be sensitive to each other's concerns and will provide the framework for building together a just society responsive to the needs of all minority groups;
  2. Calls upon all presidential candidates, leaders of public opinion, and responsible groups in American society to repudiate all threats of violence and appeals to prejudice-indeed, all assaults on the democratic process.
  3. Calls upon each of our 770 congregations to initiate a program of dialogue with Black churches and other representative Black organizations; to invite local Black officials to speak in our synagogues as part of a continuing effort to establish ties with them; and to undertake ongoing programs to assert our common concerns and interpret our differences in an atmosphere of friendship and understanding. One approach that we recommend is to establish programs whereby Black leaders can place articles in local newspapers and Jewish leaders can do the same in local Black newspapers, thus permitting an exchange of views aimed at learning about each other's aspirations and concerns;
  4. Commends the recent statement by Black and Jewish members of the House of Representatives reaffirming the strong ties between the Black and Jewish communities.
  5. Urges the establishment of programs to take young minority students to Israel so that they may come to know and appreciate the one democratic country in the Middle East, the land where so many hopes and dreams of the Jewish people repose. This program should include visits to Kibbutz Yahel, Kibbutz Lotan, and other institutions sponsored by Reform Judaism; and
  6. Acts to strengthen, in cooperation with the NAACP, the Kivie Kaplan Institute, which expresses in institutional form the commitment to civil rights and civil liberties shared by our two groups which was established in memory of the distinguished American Jew who, for so long and with such devotion, served both the NAACP and the UAHC.