By 1939, Germany had already purged itself of Jewish professors, scientists and scholars- many of which came to the U.S. looking for refuge. Some of these immigrants found unexpected positions at historically black colleges in the South, where they struggled with their newfound racist environment. While it might have seemed like an odd pairing, both Black and Jewish communities stood on the common ground of being oppressed figures in society. The relationship between Jewish teachers and African American students blossomed into a kinship fueled by empathy towards what Jews had endured in Europe and what Southern Blacks were going through in the United States.
Bonnie Gurewitsch, curator of the Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow exhibit, had never heard of Jewish refugee scholars teaching at colleges for black students before watching the film. Earlier this year, Gurewitsch told this blog about the challenges that came along with curating this exhibit:
“Outlining a story that would accurately reflect the experiences of the refugee scholars and the black students, then finding the artifacts that would illustrate the main points of that story, and setting the story in the three-dimensional setting of an exhibition. We decided to create parallel background areas, one for the scholars' backgrounds and their immigration to the US, and a second for the background of the students and their decisions to go to college. We brought the two story strands together in the central section of the exhibition-the encounter, and showed the effects of the encounter on both groups.”
In the Charlotte community, there is a history of kinship between the Black and Jewish communities. During the Civil Rights Movement, many Jewish were able to understand what it was like to be the “other.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama and was quoted saying, “I was praying with my feet.” Harry Golden, longtime Charlotte resident and publisher ofThe Carolina Israelite, was known for his commentary on race relations in the South.
In order to better understand how Black-Jewish relations had impact on Charlotte and beyond, Levine Museum is hosting Kinship & Conflict: Black/Jewish Relations
, a panel conversation featuring Rabbi Judy Schindler of Temple Beth-El, and Dr. Ronald Carter of Johnson C. Smith University. Moderated by Jackie Fishman, the program begins at 7 p.m. on today, and is free to attend. Reservations are requested.
Kinship & Conflict: Black/Jewish Relations
Today at 7:00 p.m.
A conversation with Rabbi Judy Schindler, Temple Beth-El, and Dr. Ronald Carter, Johnson C. Smith University, moderated by Jackie Fishman.