Jews & Blacks
Relations & Jewish Success Anxiety
Black-Jewish Relations & Jewish Success Anxiety
An excellent article by
David Biale described the relationship between Afro-Americans
and Jews so well. Much has been written about this topic and
has once again come to the forefront because of the 2008 elections, which have a black male as
the one of two major Democratic contenders for the Presidency
of the United States of America.
Here anti-Semitism rears its ugly head.
The black contender, Barack Obama, has a serious
connection with Muslim terrorists, exhibits anti-Israel
sentiments, and has an unmistakable leaning toward the
Palestinians, who have persecuted us and shed Jewish blood
mercilessly without conscience.
Somehow this man has lured a number of self-hating Jews
into giving money, support and positive propaganda to him.
It is difficult to understand why we, as a small
minority, would support our enemies. This despite the fact that blacks have been historically
ungrateful for all that
the Jews as a whole have done to fight for them.
Jews have even gone so far as to die for Afro-American
causes, as exemplified when two enthusiastic young Jewish men
died on behalf of blacks during a voter registration drive in
Mississippi during the 1960’s.
relationship exists between Jews and blacks.
There is both sympathy and distance.
The jazz singer Al Jolson deserted his Jewishness and
put on blackface during his performances, pretending to be
black but not really being black.
He was happy to be able to distance himself from the
reality, living a paradox.
“Blackface is recognized at once as both Black and
not Black.” By
helping and showing unusual liberalism Jews hoped to guarantee
their own integration in the USA.
The anti-Semitism, the
Holocaust and the deadly destruction of six million Jews in
Europe in the 1940’s and before is different from slavery
and second class status among blacks. Jews in the 20th Century have achieved political,
economic and cultural success in this country, while
African-Americans have not reached this status as yet,
although a great deal has changed for them in becoming
politically prominent in recent times. Jews are frequently in
a state of anxiety about their success.
Blacks are very resentful of any success or prominence
that Jews have even though they have won this state with
enormous sacrifices, hard work and ambition to better
Jews, the way to overcome the disabilities of being Jewish was
to identify with the oppressed of the world.
By making the world a better place for all oppressed
people they strove to feel safe also. Jews have played a
prominent role in the civil rights movement. Jewish conservatives, and there are unfortunately not too
many, are angry with the extreme liberals who they consider as
masochists and self haters.
The latter praise themselves for being the people who
practice the age old tradition of social justice.
Jews who came to America
with memories of millennia
of persecutions in Europe felt that America was the golden
messianic land of equality in which the melting pot would
“boil away” all minority distinctions.
Like all other immigrant groups, Jews created their own
to anti-Semitism and exclusion that lasted through the Second
World War, they developed strategies of survival.
American racism has always found its blacks as a better
target than the Jews. For the most part, Jews saw the struggle
of equality of blacks as a parallel to their own success in
the USA. Only a
country that championed equal rights for all people would
remain safe for the Jews. Because of their experiences, Jews
worked hard and labored to reach security.
With their newly found strength and accumulated capital
they were able to bankroll the civil rights movement.
Jews who supported all this with their hard earned
money were now hated by the blacks for having achieved
reinforced the hatred that blacks have for their Jewish
philanthropists, who with their money and actions supported
them. It also
reinforced some of the stereotypes that lie at the heart of
black-Jewish difficulties today.
Many Jews, including
progressive Jews, are beset by a contradictory consciousness
born of the anxiety of success: a sense of belonging to
America’s elite but a continuing consciousness as a
minority. Although the Jewish community has been very
successful educationally, financially, ethically and more,
they have a history and a memory of powerlessness that dates
back many hundreds of years.
Their history relates to impotent victimization.
The very existence of the Holocaust Museum tells one
story, but its contents tell the opposite.
To blame the Jews for the
ills of American capitalism is classic anti-Semitism and a
“classic form of false consciousness”.
Like Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer with
his blackface façade, we are ambivalent, and impress the
audience with a so called imitation of living black. On the
other hand, we do not want to be black, but want to assist the
oppressed people in our society to obtain equality, so that we
too, as once oppressed and beleaguered human beings, will and
can be safe.
Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the co-author, with Dr. Gerhard Falk, of Deviant Nurses & Improper Patient Care (2006).