A Closer Look at the Black-Jewish Congressional Caucus

People of the Pod


January and February have been full of commemorative moments for both the black and Jewish Communities. The birthday of Martin Luther King Junior the death anniversary of Anne Frank International Holocaust remembrance and Black History Month we sat down individually with three founders of the Black Jewish congressional caucus democratic congresswoman Brenda Lawrence Democratic congresswoman. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin to discuss why the caucus exists the issues. They think it will address and why it's important for black and Jewish leaders to work together. Not Apart I I asked about the original purpose of the Black Jewish congressional caucus how that purpose has evolved since its conception and what the main issues the caucus to address we. I posed the question to chief. Founder Representative Brenda Lawrence when I went to my colleagues. And ask them if they would be interested in forming a black Jewish Caucus. Civically this administration. I have seen an uptick in divisiveness and Rachel tension and also hate crimes been reported as validated being on Increasing and we have such a strong and long history of lack American and the Jewish community coming together in those times when our country lost its way the Jewish community came to the support of the black community during the civil rights movement. We have shared experience between the Holocaust. Slavery of being people oppressed by no other reason except for who we are and We know and we feel uniquely the stereotypes in the tension that are often placed on us as black and Jewish citizens of this country. And we are here in Congress to write laws and policies to ensure quality to make sure that we're forcing the civil rights of this country and we should be having a unique conversation around this and I can tell you I was so impressed with the support and willingness in a bipartisan way to form the caucus so what are the main issues that the caucus hopes to address. Well I want to know that as we look at hate crimes and discrimination as anti Semitic. It's racist xenophobic Often go back to Martin Luther King. Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries not only to rid ourselves bandage but to make oppression of any people by others impossible so when we plan or what. Our jackets is our is that we will make sure that we are uniquely informed. We are aware of these incidents and policies and situations where we see Racism not being addressed properly or being able or being nurtured and that we can pass policies and enforce loss through our justice system to ensure we're holding true to one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all next. We asked Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz during the civil rights movement jewish-americans lent critical support to the N. Double ACP and fought alongside. Dr Martin Luther King Junior to challenge racial segregation in public accommodations and black leaders have stood with the Jewish community following the tragic shootings. At synagogues in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and POW California Joakim Prinz german-american Rabbi and refugee of Nazi. Germany represented the Jewish community as an organizer during the nineteen sixty three march on Washington. So that history is long and and significant and so the the The Black Jewish caucus is really important for us to be able to to retie those binds. And make sure that we can work on the modern day issues that are of mutual concern to both communities are purposes to assemble leaders to learn from one. Another advocate for joint concerns Regardless of party we believe And we exist because all partners are committed calling out hate and racism and discrimination anti-semitism and xenophobia whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head and you know our alliance in the Black Jewish caucus is really important so that we can work to honor and strengthen and safeguard the bond of our communities that have been developed in the struggle for equality in America. Then we asked representative Lee Zeldin. There is a need to better bridge the gap between the Jewish community and the black community and understanding a long rich history of the the black community fighting for on behalf of with the Jewish Committee and community and vice versa This isn't a new concept for us to be working closely and back in World War. Two was seven sixty first tank battalion. Bed Liberated gun skirt skin and God almost four hundred medals for their heroics their efforts and it was Jewish members who stood side by side with the black community during the civil rights push and some actually ended up giving up their lives in that fight for Justice and equality fast forward to two thousand and nineteen. This was announced in June But we were talking to each other about it for a few months leading up to that. Brenda Lawrence Really did a fantastic job taking a lead initiative. The American Jewish Committee was also influential and helpful with that. 'cause how has it evolved since then? I would say that more and more people have expressed interest in being part of it so it's become a bigger and it's allowed us to build a stronger network and we've seen a divide close But the challenges still exist and we just had a Hanukkah in two thousand nineteen that was marked by violent antisemitic attacks in and around the New York City area and some of the people who were paying attention to it saw that the individuals who are carrying out the attacks weren't neo Nazis. They weren't they weren't white supremacists. They weren't a radical Islamic extremists. And they they weren't Politically motivated it was a different dynamic than what you might have been talking about in June of two thousand nineteen You had some people who are talking about the the black Israel The Hebrew Israelite Movement But then others within that movement rejecting the acts carried out up in Munsey attacking the rabbi's home as well as attacking The the Jewish Kosher Supermarket in New Jersey. So in a way if you ask me how it evolved part of. It's been positive With all of the outreach in all of the new relationships and part of it has been an added challenge added friction as we witnessed what happened in the Hanukkah two thousand nineteen and struggling with figuring out how to as quickly as possible Deal with that next. We asked how the black community can support Jewish concerns and how the Jewish community can more forcefully advocate for African American issues. Here's what Linda Lawrence had to say. Yes the Jewish community has in the past as as you know during the civil rights movement Jewish communities one of our strongest legal and justice advocate on the judicial system but it is lifting the voice of Black America Black Lives Matter Institutional that is. Our biggest challenge institutional racism when it comes to the education when it comes to housing when it comes to the criminal justice lending voice to the black community and pointing out those things that are wrong and the black community. What we can do is make sure that we are calling out the stereotypes against the Jewish community. Then we heard from Debbie Wasserman Schultz. There is really some significant overlap that particularly with the violence and the Anti Semitism and bigotry. That is being hurled at our communities not just with these horrendous murders but with social media attacks and you know protest against our communities and discriminatory actions so we have a lot on our plate. Initially that I think are in my view important for our communities mutually and you know because the Caucasus really in its infancy as we mature and move down the road. Get to know one another issues that you know. We can be across the aisle and across our communities and the caucus focused on trying to prioritize the issues that the individual communities find important and lastly representative Lee Zeldin. Well we always spent a lot of times so far I talking about the way. The Jewish community has been targeted with not just Anti Semitic thoughts but antisemitic actions and violent and some cases of its cost people their lives. So you know the the ways for the the black community to identify what? The top issues are Right now for the Jewish community. We're seeing it. Play out really in the national news and the national debate for the Black Community The there still is racism in our country in many respects and I think that teaching tolerance and and understanding ensuring that policies aren't discriminatory that individuals have the ability to achieve the American dream and shouldn't be held back just because they might be someone of color or they might be practicing a different religion like Judaism. That discrimination racism still exists in our country. We saw it play out not too long ago on. Long Island where I'm from the first. Congressional district of New York is on the east end of Long Island There was a story that was in. Newsday was an investigative report of members of the real estate industry discriminating against people of color who were trying to find housing trying to Purchase a home to achieve the American dream. And unfortunately that's an exception and not the norm. It's rare But the response has been robust with investigations. That have been lost. launched as well as the real estate industry themselves Self policing Each Other To educate but educate each other and to push out of their industry people who are discriminating against Black individuals who are trying to own a home and then she the American dream so I would say as far as identifying some of the biggest needs right now of the black community. I would say that just like it was easy to identify anti-semitism as a top needed needs to get addressed for the Jewish community. I would say. Racism is something that's very prevalent and still needs to be addressed absolutely with regards to the black community next. We asked what issues of mutual concern? The caucus can address. Here's what Brenda Lawrence had to say. I think it's extremely important. That the black and Jewish community allow the history of oppression for either of our people to be forgotten. You know there's some people who like to say the Holocaust didn't happen. There are people who say You know black people so each other to slavery. So what's the big deal? We cannot allow the history that as horrific as it is to be forgotten. And that's something else that I think that we uniquely can do as citizens of this country and as survivor and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Right now we have a really significant challenge around white supremacy and the rise of white supremacists in United States white supremacist increasingly targeted and killed large groups of people in recent years because of their race or religion in the United States in Twenty fifteen we had nine African Americans who were murdered murdered by a gunman whose name I won't mention at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Mother Emmanuel in Charleston South Carolina. Because and this is quoting the murderer. He knew that it would be a place to get a small amount of black people in one area. You had Robert Bowers. Last year yelled antisemitic. Slurs before he opened fire and killed eleven worshippers at the tree of life synagogue in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and that was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community. American history you've had attacks on mosques where insecurity has had to be increased after fifty one people were massacred to mosques in New Zealand. So we have a very current urgent challenge with bigotry. Anti-semitism white supremacists who are engaging in in deadly violence and so that's at the security and houses of fighting. Anti Semitism and bigotry is Is really the top of our current list of issue the very tragic areas of mutual concern for for both communities and and I would also add Particularly because most of these crimes perpetrated with guns the Jewish community in the African American community have have really come together around making sure that we can close all the loopholes that allow people who shouldn't have a gun under federal law here in the US be able to get them Now that issue is unfortunately not bipartisan. I was just getting ready to say. That's gotta be bipartisan. doesn't mean that That the hawks On Black Jewish relations can't take it on

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