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Jews and Blacks: Let the Healing Begin

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Can Jews and Blacks be friends and allies once again? It's neither easy nor impossible, say Michael Lerner and Cornel West, in a dialogue that looks at the most pressing problems of contemporary America through the prism of the relationship between their two communities. The alliance between Blacks and Jews was the cornerstone of liberal politics for much of the twentieth century. Yet today there are people in each community who see their former ally as their most dangerous foe. In the current political climate, ...
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1995 Hardcover New 0399140468. New. No remainder marks. Display copy; light shelf wear. Jacket lightly rubbed. Professional service from a Main street bookstore.; 9 X 6.30 X ... 1.10 inches; 276 pages. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Can Jews and Blacks be friends and allies once again? It's neither easy nor impossible, say Michael Lerner and Cornel West, in a dialogue that looks at the most pressing problems of contemporary America through the prism of the relationship between their two communities. The alliance between Blacks and Jews was the cornerstone of liberal politics for much of the twentieth century. Yet today there are people in each community who see their former ally as their most dangerous foe. In the current political climate, it would be easy to suggest we gloss over the differences and unite in the face of a common enemy: the reactionary right. But calls for unity are not likely to succeed unless they are based on working through the explosive issues that separate communities. West and Lerner refuse to compromise their deeply held views for the sake of unity. In a dialogue that is always respectful, though sometimes marked by tension, they help each other understand their different ways of looking at the world. Avoiding easy outs and quick fixes, they explore such subjects as Louis Farrakhan, Zionism, the economic inequalities between Jewish and Black communities, crime, and affirmative action. Both powerful public intellectuals, Lerner and West take on some of the most demanding problems of our time, in a sophisticated but extremely accessible way. They conclude with a plan for healing the rifts that have developed. But in a deeper sense, it is their dialogue itself that is healing. Lerner and West's relationship is a model rarely seen in American politics: two powerful men ready to explore differences, not afraid to disagree, and drawn through the course of the dialogue to grow closer and more caring for each other. The dialogue of this book is a model for both the Black and the Jewish communities, and it suggests that healing and transformation are possible, and that hope can triumph over cynicism and despair.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
The complex history and diverse voices of the relationship between American blacks and Jews necessarily mean that two individuals can't definitively represent hardly homogeneous groups. Thus, readers might best see these edited dialogues as an instructive introduction to the territory. West (Race Matters), who teaches Afro-American studies and religion at Harvard, and Lerner (Jewish Renewal), founder of Tikkun magazine, range from personal histories to current controversies. They disagree on topics like black criticism of Israel and the depth of black anti-Semitism, and they make some worthy points on topics like the symbolism of the Holocaust Museum and the current estrangement of the two groups. However, both men are of the left, and their rhetoric sometimes degenerates into a laundry list of laments, especially Lerner's harping on his "politics of meaning." Their ultimate proposal: a campaign of "healing and repair in both communities," aimed at fighting both anti-Semitism and racism. An ambitious agenda, given that, as they note, there are currently few links between Jewish and black progressives.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The complex history and diverse voices of the relationship between American blacks and Jews necessarily mean that two individuals can't definitively represent hardly homogeneous groups. Thus, readers might best see these edited dialogues as an instructive introduction to the territory. West (Race Matters), who teaches Afro-American studies and religion at Harvard, and Lerner (Jewish Renewal), founder of Tikkun magazine, range from personal histories to current controversies. They disagree on topics like black criticism of Israel and the depth of black anti-Semitism, and they make some worthy points on topics like the symbolism of the Holocaust Museum and the current estrangement of the two groups. However, both men are of the left, and their rhetoric sometimes degenerates into a laundry list of laments, especially Lerner's harping on his ``politics of meaning.'' Their ultimate proposal: a campaign of ``healing and repair in both communities,'' aimed at fighting both anti-Semitism and racism. An ambitious agenda, given that, as they note, there are currently few links between Jewish and black progressives. (Apr.)
Ilene Cooper
This dialogue between two old friends--both consummate thinkers--explores the passion and pain of a dying relationship. More personal (and because of the conversational format, less cogent) than Murray Friedman's "What Went Wrong: The Creation and Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance" , the discussion between West, Harvard professor and the author of the best-selling "Race Matters" (1993), and Lerner, a magazine editor and a proudly proclaimed liberal, goes back in history and forward in speculation as the pair tries to figure out what went wrong with African American-Jewish relations and what to do about it. West and Lerner begin asking each other questions about their backgrounds (informative if somewhat contrived) and go on to press each other's hot buttons: black nationalism, the Holocaust, Farrakhan, Zionism. And after all these issues and more have been discussed--emotionally, urgently, and honestly--the initial conclusions are unsettling for all of us. West, for instance, feels that without systematic change America is headed for a race war. Yet, in keeping with their subtitle ("Let the Healing Begin"), the authors offer the epilogue "Grounds for Hope," in which they suggest that a shared spirituality could offer the way to resolve discord. Certainly, their final assessment, that change is possible, comes more from faith than from any empirical evidence: "We can build on the positive potentials and not just focus on the problems and difficulties." Let's hope these two charged voices aren't just crying out in the wilderness.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399140464
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/8/1995
  • Pages: 276
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Cornel West
Cornel West
Educator and philosopher Cornel West is the Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton University. Known as one of America’s most gifted, provocative, and important public intellectuals, he is the author of the contemporary classic Race Matters, which changed the course of America’s dialogue on race and justice, and the New York Times bestseller Democracy Matters. He is the recipient of the American Book Award and more than 20 honorary degrees.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Introduction 6
Ch. 1 Personal Dimensions 14
Ch. 2 Past Oppression 45
Ch. 3 Cultural Identity and Whiteness 62
Ch. 4 The Civil Rights Movement 80
Ch. 5 Black Nationalism 91
Ch. 6 Jewish Nationalism 115
Ch. 7 Jewish Racism and Black Anti-Semitism 135
Ch. 8 Economic Conflicts 157
Ch. 9 Current Tension Points: Crown Heights and Farrakhan 180
Ch. 10 Shared Crises of Leadership 225
Ch. 11 Strategies for Reconciliation and Healing 249
Epilogue: Grounds for Hope 274
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