Behavior: The Black and the Jew: A Falling Out of Allies

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THE Jew and the Negro would seem to have a great deal in common—in some ways more than America's other minorities. They share a tragic past, part of which is a history of persecution at the hands of a white Christian majority. As the traditional outsider, the Jew can feel a special sympathy for other outsiders. His skin is white, and if he wishes he can become assimilated as no black man can. But the Jew, too, has at times known a sense of separateness and racial difference that could be as marked as a dark skin. Thus, theoretically, the black and the Jew are spiritual allies—or should be.

But while there is much that binds these two peoples, there is also much that keeps them apart. On the scale of achievement in the U.S., the Jews rank as the most successful minority, the blacks as the least. Increasingly aware of this disparity, the U.S. Negro has come to view it with envy and hostility. Tragically, the alliance of black and Jew is beginning to dissolve.

Many blacks think that they must now reject all of their white friends—the Jew among them—in order to discover themselves. As a result, an ominous current of anti-Semitism has appeared to widen the breach between them and the Jew. While this ancient virus infects only a small fraction of the country's 22 million Negroes, the Jew knows from bitter experience that it can spread with distressing rapidity. At the same time, some latent anti-black feelings have come to the fore among Jews—symbolized by the half-casual, half-contemptuous Yiddish reference to the "schvartzes" (blacks).

New York City has become the center of black antiSemitism, although it exists in almost every urban center where large communities of Negroes and Jews intermingle. New York has more Jews (1.8 million) and more blacks (1.5 million) than any other city in the world. The predominantly Negro areas of Harlem and Brooklyn's Ocean Hill-Brownsville were once solidly Jewish; now the Jewish presence is signified by absentee storekeepers and landlords who, fairly or not, are regarded by the Negro as colonial exploiters. More often than not, the black child is taught—in a crumbling, inadequate public school—by a Jewish teacher. More often than not, the hated neighborhood welfare center, to the black a symbol of indifferent, domineering white bureaucracy, is staffed by Jewish social workers. "If you happen to be an uneducated, poorly trained Negro living in the ghetto," says Bayard Rustin, executive director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, "you see only four kinds of white people—the policeman, the businessman, the teacher and the welfare worker. In many cities, three of those four are Jewish."

Battle over Schools

Tensions between blacks and Jews have simmered under the surface for years, but they broke into the open with the recent battle over the decentralization project in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville school district. Financed in part by the Ford Foundation, the experiment gave a community-elected neighborhood board and its Negro administrator, Rhody McCoy, a measure of local control over policies in the area's eight schools. The project was opposed by the predominantly Jewish United Federation of Teachers, which feared that decentralization, if applied to the entire system, would destroy the union's bargaining power.

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