Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Still much work to be done for civil rights

 


“Blacks have known slavery and so have Jews,” Julian Bond reminded some 150 delegates at the annual meeting of the Southern Jewish Historical Society.  “But we cannot build a common future on our common graves,” the co-founder of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee told the crowd. 

Bond, who became the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center and served 20 years in the Georgia State legislature, was the keynote speaker at the Historical Society’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. The meeting location was chosen to help mark the passage of half-a-century since the Civil Rights Movement brought violence to Alabama’s largest city. 

Now a professor of history at American University in Washington, D.C., Bond told those who had gathered in the historic sanctuary of Temple Emmanuel in Birmingham, that there is still much work to be done.  “What’s missing is a critical examination of the ugly virus of racism and ethnic hatred that are running rampant in majority America, by members of the majority.”  Bond cited legislative barriers to polling places, a war on the poor, profiling and a host of other forms of racism that have become at once more subtle and more pernicious. 

The two-day conference gathered to hear the latest research in the study of the unique factors that created a “Jewish South” in the United States.  A special symposium on the work of Rabbi Alan Krause who recorded interviews with Rabbis serving southern congregations, mostly in small and isolated towns, with regard to their stand on the civil rights movement and the battle against segregation.  There were examples of great bravery and valor while some Rabbis, fearful of the associations being made linking the Civil Rights Movement and Communism, remained on the sidelines.  It was in the wake of the McCarthy era that Jews, sensitive to the associations of Jews and Communism, felt they could not afford to become active in the cause of liberty for African-Americans. 

One of the highlights of the event was the recognition of the work of Maitland’s Rachel Heimovics Braun who, with her husband Matitiahu Braun have been regular attendees.  Heimovics-Braun has been the managing editor of the highly regarded Journal of the Southern Jewish Historical Society for 16 years.

 

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