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.
Not only is the traditional alliance between Jews and blacks nonfunctional today, some revisionist historians say it never existed at all. In his introduction to this evenhanded analysis of what went wrong, Friedman, a civil-rights activist, comments: "Such efforts to rewrite history . . . could be dismissed as either bigoted nonsense or moralistic propaganda were it not for the fact that the tension and conflict between the two groups is being deliberately exploited for blatant political ends." Among the experts he cites who support this view is Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of the Afro-American studies department at Harvard. Friedman begins his historical retrospective in colonial times and examines the Jewish-African American relationship through the most current events. He presents both sides of the issue throughout, questioning and criticizing Jewish motives, but also dispelling numerous misconceptions about Jews that have been gaining attention lately. For instance, the claim that Jews were responsible for the African slave trade is knocked down convincingly. There is even documentation that "the number of free black planters who owned and worked slaves in the South and the Caribbean was many times greater than the number of Jews." Friedman also provides an insightful examination of the liberal agenda and the integrationist assumptions that permeated the original civil-rights movement, as well as commentary on the black anti-Semitism that seems to be securing a place on some college campuses. Given the ever-present rancor and turmoil, Friedman does not end on a hopeful note. Still, he offers a moving plea for the importance of remembering the past accurately: "One can only hope that American history itself is not rewritten. Once upon a time, Jews and blacks together wrote some of the finest pages in that story, shedding their blood to redeem the promise of American life."