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A Jewish Thought on Malcom’s Birthday

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 When I was a kid, the first book I read that I couldn’t put down was the “Autobiography of Malcolm X.” I loved it so much that I read it twice. Years later as a junior or senior in high school, I came to realize that the reason why a white Jewish kid brought up in a Jewish-Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn identified so strongly with an African American named Malcom X had to do with the stories my father told me about how he and our family survived the genocidal persecution of Jews during the Holocaust.

Last night, my wife and I went to a play called “The Royale.” It tells the story of Jack Johnston who broke the color barrier by being the first African American who fought a white boxer in the ring and won the title of heavy weight champion of the world. It spoke of the backlash of bigotry that occurred because of that win. My wife Lisa believes the very same backlash against Barack Obama breaking the racial barrier of being the first African American president is being expressed by the ground swell of support of Trump.
I have several religious Jewish friends who tell me that when they have walked in public with a skull cap on their head they have been accosted and intimidated because of their outward display of being Jewish. My child goes to a Jewish school where the level of security and surveillance goes beyond the norm. There isn’t a synagogue outside of Israel that will not have police guarding its doors during the upcoming High Holidays. Jewish university students everywhere experience bias, intimidation and bullying whether they empathize with Israel or not. Throughout the world outside of Israel, cemeteries and synagogues have been vandalized with nazi symbols and Jews everywhere have been murdered because of their faith.
So as I sat there watching that play and recalled the profound impression the Autobiography of Malcom X had upon me as a child I never would have imagined that I, one generation after the Holocaust would identify with a Jack Johnson or Malcolm X or a black kid being shot on the streets of our cities not just because of what happened to my parents and family but what is happening to Jews right here and right now.


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