Did you know that half of the lawyers who protected the civil rights activists in the South during the 60's were Jews? Did you know what an important role Jews played in the establishment of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909? Did you know that Jewish leaders were arrested while heeding a call from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in St. Augustine, Florida, in June 1964?
Strong, deep relationships between African-Americans and Jews in America have been, indeed, intertwined since the turn of the last century. I had an opportunity to think about all this when watching a play called "To the Promised Land," presented by the First Stage group in Milwaukee last weekend.
The play depicts the relationship between the two communities within the backdrop of a visit to Milwaukee by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (also the place where she grew up as a child) in 1969. That same year Milwaukee witnessed civil unrest between African-Americans and Milwaukee’s Police Department. Ruth, the hero of the play, who lost her brother during this unrest, finds comfort in Golda Meir’s story. It was a powerful production.
This week another Israeli hero visited Illinois. Tal Brody, an Israeli icon in basketball, attended a special ceremony at the University of Illinois where his jersey was retired. Fifteen thousand people in the Assembly Hall at Champaign-Urbana stood up and applauded a gentleman who 48 years ago turned down an offer to play with the NBA (as Number 12 in the draft of 1965) and instead, made the decision to play basketball in the Promised Land.
This was another week in which being the Israeli Consul General to the Midwest made me so proud. I hope you will find a lot of interest in this newsletter where you can read about these two events and many more.