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Black/Jewish Alliance

I have just returned from another 'four on four' blacks and Jews RC event. Participating in this black/Jewish dialogue led by N'tua N'tua-Domayla has been remarkable. The title 'four on four' refers to the four Jews and four blacks who month after month connect and try to be human with each other.

Whereas historically so much black-Jewish dialogue has focused on our broken relationship, rehashing and reliving disappointments and old hurts between these two communities, our group focuses on creating a solid base of support in which to do the work of discharging internalized oppression, and as Cherie Brown and Barbara Love say, of 'getting to have each other.' Each time we meet I feel that I have experienced real life in real time, not on the periphery observing and analyzing. Each time is spontaneous and vastly different. The depth of human connection invigorates and energizes me. I am a participant in the discovery of myself and my relationship with Jews as well as blacks. I am part of an important support group process within RC.

People often ask about the group: What makes it so special? What happens there? Can I join? The reality is that we use the same process as any support group, but the people, the communities, the structure, the commitment seem to allow for special experiences. It has helped that we allow for spontaneity and being 'in the moment.' Having a closed group has helped define our community and has helped create safety. It has made a difference knowing that each of the eight members takes responsibility for the group going well, attends with (surprising) regularity, and has developed a track record of standing up against each community's fiercest pattern. This group has been the centerpiece of my RC experience. I have planned 'intensives' for people in the group, shared phone time, counseled with members, and fallen back on their support when something is hard in RC or in my everyday life.

As happens so much in our group, when we gathered for a workshop in Bodega Bay, we didn't have a roadmap of the weekend. How should we organize it? Where should we meet? As a white Jewish man who conveniently knew someone who had a cabin for rent, I didn't stop to think that Bodega Bay, in northern rural California, might not seem to black people like the safest place. That realization alone provided lots of opportunity for support and discharge. Meals were also a great source of unexpected 'material.' What one eats, how one prepares it, who makes the decisions in the kitchen, how one goes about making the decisions, who talks over the meal, who has special diets, and what assumptions are made around vegetarians or meat-eaters all provided us with opportunities for discharge.

Having struggled together through a number of such challenging experiences has brought out a depth of commitment and safety for us. We have become brothers, sisters, and allies who share similar hope and pain.

Lately, I have been wondering if being an ally to blacks and Jews has something to do with being willing to stand alone and trust your own thinking. I have found that as an individual grows to trust herself or himself as to what is moral and just regardless of what society might dictate, I feel safer and that I have found an ally who will stand up to the injustice of racism and anti-Semitism. I've found a lot of strength in knowing that N'tua and the other members of the group will stand up to anyone for something they believe in and they will be there all the way. If I know that the blacks in the group believe in me and in Jewish liberation, then I feel that I can relax a little bit and rest because of their strength and conviction.

I first thought about this idea when I noticed the courageous steps blacks and Jews have taken for each other as allies, such as the freedom riders during the 1960's and the heroes during the Holocaust. These so-called altruistic personalities were free-thinkers. They fell back on their own good thinking in the face of twisted logic running in their countries. Maybe we can't always prevent people's patterns from being rehearsed, but we can always hold onto a sense of hope and our own integrity in the face of whatever confronts us. This is perhaps the most profound way to be an ally.

David Franklin
Berkeley, California,
USA


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00