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What Went Wrong?, The Creation and Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance


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If the civil rights era was a golden age of black-Jewish relations, ``such memories obscure a more complex reality,'' notes former federal civil rights offical Friedman. Now a regional director of the American Jewish Committee, he takes a fair-minded but somewhat Jewish-oriented look at a relationship that began with the founding of the NAACP in 1909. Proceeding chronologically, he provides a solid account of events, anecdotes and conflicts, often differing with revisionist scholars Harold Cruse and Claybourne Carson Jr., who questioned the motives of Jews who aided the black struggle. While Friedman ably summarizes such flashpoints as the 1968 New York City teachers' strike and the rise of Louis Farrakhan, he doesn't do justice to others, like the 1991 Crown Heights riots. Given that blacks and Jews now ``have their hands full sorting out their own problems,'' Friedman suggests, resignedly, that it may not be possible to normalize relations soon; Jews, he proposes, should simply relate to blacks as they do to other groups, comfortable in both concert and disagreement. (Jan.)

Friedman, the Middle Atlantic states director of the American Jewish Committee, provides an overview and analysis of African American and Jewish relationships in this century. He focuses on the turbulent recent decades, portraying the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s as the heyday of cooperation. Since then, each group has had different agendas and problems, and the unique relationship has melted away. As Friedman emphasizes, there is no shared vision; some African American groups express open hostility toward the Jews. Friedman does not have any crystal ball or panaceas for the future, but he does show that there are encouraging voices of reason and reconciliation. Written from the Jewish point of view, this introductory study is recommended for libraries with strong current events sections.-Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., Ill.

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