CHOSEN FOR WHAT?: LIBERAL-JEWISH CRISIS IN THE WAKE OF BLACK POWER
Despite years of research and hundreds of scholarly works that has been completed examining the relationship between the Black and American Jewish communities, relatively little has been done on mapping how internal discussions in the Jewish community changed as Civil Rights transformed. Many researchers have discussed Black and Jewish relations in terms of their ebbs and flows, i.e. when these two groups worked together and when they butted heads. However, while the research here tracks some changes in the Black-Jewish relationship, it locates itself primarily within the Jewish community rather than outside it. By examining the writings of liberal, politically active Jews in the mid-to-late 1960s, this work presents the ways in which, arguably the most important shift in the Civil Rights Movement, the emergence and dominance of Black Power, led to changes in Jewish understanding of the middle-class and American “whiteness.” These writings, particularly those of the American Jewish Congress, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, and Washington, D.C. area rabbi, Stanley Rabinowitz, show that Black Power ideology deeply affected the way liberal Jews felt about their place in white America. Black Power ideology, specifically, Black Power’s notions concerning assimilation, the middle-class, and coalition building, caused liberal, politically active Jews to reevaluate their own whiteness, altering their perceived place in both the Civil Rights Movement specifically and American society generally.
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