January marks the time of year when we honor and celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After a hiatus due to the pandemic, MLK week events and march in Nashville will be back in person this year. JCRC will return to the tradition of providing transportation to the program so we can represent our community as we can stand in solidarity with the greater Nashville community to honor Dr. King’s legacy and tireless work on behalf of justice, equity, and nonviolence.
At a time when African American and Jewish relationships have been strained through social media by the likes of Ye, formally known as Kanye West, this opportunity is especially important.
The convocation speaker this year will be Michael Eric Dyson, one of the nation’s most renowned professors. As a teacher who earned a PhD in Religion from Princeton University, he is presently Distinguished University Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies, College of Arts & Science, Distinguished University Professor of Ethics and Society, The Divinity School, and NEH Centennial Chair at Vanderbilt University.
In the weeks following the very public and disturbing comments by Ye and others resulting in increased focus and attention on the frayed relationship, Dr. Dyson penned an opinion piece for the New York Times titled, “Blacks and Jews, Again,” in which he reflects on the long and complicated relationship between the two communities. He writes, “We should remember the ways that our communities have historically passed the baton to each other in the long relay for justice. Until we see antisemitism as a toxic species of the white supremacy that threatens Black security and democracy’s future, none of us are truly safe.”
The relationship between Blacks and Jews is especially relevant as the diversity within the Jewish community shifts. Based on the most recent Pew Research Center survey, the U.S. Jewish population is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Overall, 92% of Jewish adults identify as White (non-Hispanic), and 8% identify with all other categories combined. Among Jews ages 18 to 29, that figure rises to 15% and 17% of U.S. Jews surveyed live in households in which at least one child or adult is Black, Hispanic, Asian, or multiracial.
We will explore and celebrate this diversity at the JCRC Social Justice Seder on March 30, 2023. Our special guest for the evening, Michael Twitty, represents the Black, Jewish and LGBTQ+ identities and is the author of the book, Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew. Twitty describes the book by sharing, “This is a book about a part of Black food that’s also Jewish food; this is a book about Jewish food that’s also Black food because it’s a book about Black people who are Jewish and Jewish people who are Black.”
During the seder we will learn, share, struggle and celebrate as we strengthen existing relationships and forge new and encouraging paths together. After several virtual versions of
the program due to the pandemic, we look forward to being back in person for this award-winning event.
In the conclusion of his opinion piece, Dr. Dyson writes, “Ye, Irving and the rest of us would do well to remember that African Americans and Jews are passengers on the same ship facing the ferocious headwinds of bigotry and hatred.The author and psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon said he learned to be, “responsible in my body and soul for the fate reserved for my brother,” understanding that, “the antisemite is inevitably a Negrophobe.” That is a lesson we should all learn.
Please mark your calendar for both the MLK March and Convocation on January 16, and the JCRC Social Justice Seder on March 30, 2023. To get involved or learn more about the work of JCRC contact Deborah Oleshansky, Deborah@jewishnashville.org