Racism, Antisemitism, and the Schism between Blacks and Jews in the United States: A Pilot Intergroup Encounter Program

By Schlosser, Lewis Z.; Talleyrand, Regine M. et al. | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, April 2007 | Go to article overview
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Racism, Antisemitism, and the Schism between Blacks and Jews in the United States: A Pilot Intergroup Encounter Program

Schlosser, Lewis Z., Talleyrand, Regine M., Lyons, Heather Z., Baker, Lisa M., Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

A schism now exists between Blacks and Jews in the United States, 2 groups that were strong allies during the civil rights movement. The authors describe the historical antecedents of and contributing factors to this schism and present information on and lessons learned from 2 Black-Jewish dialogues that were conducted.

Existe en la actualidad un cisma entre Negros y Judios en Ins Estados Unidos, 2 grupos que fueron grandes aliados durante el movimiento de reivindicacion de Ins derechos civiles. Los autores describen Ins antecedentes historicos y Ins factores que han contribuido a este cisma y presentan la informacion obtenida y las lecciones aprendidas a partir de 2 conversaciones llevadas a cabo entre individuos Negros y Judios.

Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: How does it feel to be a problem?

--W. E. B. DuBois (1903, p. 1)


Historically, people of African descent and people of Jewish descent (hereinafter referred to as Blacks and Jews, respectively) have been among the most consistent, prominent, and public targets of hatred, discrimination, and oppression (Lerner & West, 1995). Perhaps the most well-known and powerful examples of these histories of oppression are the Maafa (i.e., the middle passage of the African slave trade) and the Shoah (i.e., the Holocaust during World War II). Despite this shared history of having overcome and survived extreme oppression, as well as a past alliance fighting together for civil rights (Berman, 1995; Kaufman, 1995), Blacks and Jews now find themselves pitted against one another in the United States. Underscoring this reality, research supports the continued presence of some Black antisemitism and Jewish racism (Fiebert, Horgan, & Peralta, 1999). The schism between Blacks and Jews has been the subject of some scholarship (Adams & Bracey, 1999; Berman, 1995; Daughtry, 1997; Kaufman, 1995; Lerner & West, 1995; Salzman & West, 1997). These past scholars have suggested that the origins of the schism are based on the economic divide between Blacks and Jews, as well as the emergence of Black Nationalism and Zionism. However, to our knowledge, there is little recent scholarship on intercultural dialogues between these two groups. Given the commitment to multiculturalism by professionals in the counseling field, it follows that counselors endorse the examination and reparation of conflicts between racial and cultural groups. Furthermore, developing a model to address the Black-Jewish conflict may lead to awareness of and solutions to conflicts among other racial and cultural groups.

The intergroup encounter literature base can be helpful in understanding the Black-Jewish schism. Intergroup encounter programs (Abu-Nimer, 1999; Maoz, 2004) flourished out of a recognition of the need to focus more on process than outcome in contact hypothesis research (Amir, 1969), understanding conflict as a means of achieving equity, and the evidenced power of grass roots interaction opportunities. Of relevance to Black-Jewish relations, other intergroup encounter programs (e.g., focused on Arab-Jewish interactions; Abu-Nimer, 1999; Maoz, 2004) have stressed an understanding of the sophisticated historical and political complexities of the rift. In addition, these programs encourage equality between groups during the intervention, while also recognizing the reality of a power imbalance between the groups in the real world. Two other important factors are honest self- and group-reflection that recognizes individuals' role in creating and maintaining rifts and a focus on process rather than outcome. We sought to incorporate these aforementioned aspects into our pilot intergroup encounter program, which is the main focus of this article.

In addition to aspects of successful intergroup encounters, there are models of intergroup encounter programs that should be considered. Maoz (2004) recognized three such models.

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Racism, Antisemitism, and the Schism between Blacks and Jews in the United States: A Pilot Intergroup Encounter Program


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