There is no question about the well-documented history where the Black and Jews have stood together in their fight for civil rights, equality and political power. But not so much is said about the creative alliances in business where Blacks and Jews are and have been forging new businesses and ideas that have helped enable Blacks and Jews to enter the mainstream in American business. These are the partnerships that have and will create goodwill and change the future.
There are many examples of how Blacks and Jews have come together to fight against hatred and bigotry. In fact, as my friend Rabbi Marc Schneier at The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, often states (and he even wrote a book about it called Shared Dreams), Dr. King was an ardent supporter of Israel and the Jewish people, including taking part in efforts to ease discrimination against Jews in the Soviet Union and the safety and security of the State of Israel. Dr. King also spoke out strongly against anti-Semitism in the United States. We all know that no segment of the American population provided as much and as consistent support to Dr. King and to African Americans as did the Jewish community.
But, like any relationship, the bond between Jews and African-Americans has experienced its ups and its downs. However, despite claims to the contrary, the relationship between Blacks and Jews today remains strong.
Maybe it's because the Jewish community has suffered from tremendous anti-Semitism throughout history and as a result of their plight, Jews have been able to better sympathize with the struggles facing Blacks. Or maybe it is because the Jewish community knows that if it happens to the Black community it can also happen to them.
So for generations, Jews and Blacks have marched together in the streets of Birmingham and Washington, and shared the stage at venues in Harlem and elsewhere. Our two communities are not afraid to stand side by side, continually defying those who would prefer to see us behind solitary bars and forgotten, not in front of cheering crowds.
Rabbi Schneier and I travel the country sharing these stories, discussing our tale with anyone who will listen - Blacks, Jews, or otherwise. This is true in synagogues and churches as well as college universities like Queens College - which Rabbi Schneier and I will address next week.
Despite the years of anti-Semitism, the Jewish community has not let the hatred of others hinder their ambitions or drive for success. The Jews have been resourceful and have stood together and time and time again prospered in business, medicine, law and entertainment. This is a great example of what a tight knit family and education can accomplish even against a world filled with shut doors and hate.
While I have many first hand experiences in records, jewelry, fashion, internet, TV, film, financial services, and much more, I have also noticed Jay Z, Puffy, and most of hip-hop out-branding the record business that is dying its own death, and building partnerships in areas previously reserved for white men. Both Jay Z and Puffy are truly creative entrepreneurs, and both have learned a lot of these skills from their Jewish partners and suppliers.
Entrepreneurs are usually raised in cultures that feed that free spirit that allows them to dream up new ideas and break the mold. Without documentation I can still safely state that in most hoods, and certainly in mine, going to school to "get a good job" was the goal.
But I built many businesses with Jews who didn't let school dim down their dreams and they were comfortable with the idea to let go of the idea of job security and fly. This I learned from Orthodox Jews, Syrian Jews, Reform Jews and other sects of Judaism. All of these communities have welcomed me.
Since the days when the white gang "The Green Ways" in Queens chased me into the white housing development where the kids and mothers accepted me, and I learned the difference between the "different whites in Queens," the Jewish community has proven to be a safe haven and a place to empower myself and other Blacks.
From our president to everyone in the hip-hop community, we have a strong history and partnership with the Jewish community and today I thought I would restate this fact in case there is any doubt about who else has struggled like Blacks and who else has stood by Blacks in our most difficult times. We know that we still have work to do, however, each individual must exude the kind of tolerance and love that we would want to receive ourselves. We must learn how to love everyone, not just within our own community, as the world is too small, and our potential is too great.
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