We are all G-Ds creations A teacher at my daughter's school, taught my child and I that, “We are all G-ds creations.” In fact she said, “not only are we all created by G-d, but it is G-d that made us all different. Some of G-d’s children have dark hair while some have light hair. Some have blue eyes and others have brown eyes.” And some have darker skin than others.
In fact, we are all different from each other – In how we look and act. In how we learn and in what we do. And yet for some of us, it is our differences that keep us a part.
Bankole Thompson, editor of The Michigan Chronicle, an African American, and Arthur Horwitz, Publisher of The Detroit Jewish News, a Jewish American, see differences and yet respect and celebrate those differences because they have taken the time to better understand each other and each others culture. In fact, both are co-founders of a young organization of editors and publishers of Detroit’s ethnic media, called the “New Michigan Media,” and both got together to host an event to raise awareness and create a better understanding between our communities in late October at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills, Mich..
At 38, I was not around during the Civil Rights Movement or the riots in the late 60’s. In fact, the closest I ever got was being born on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday. In addition, during the 1994 gubernatorial campaign I worked for Congressman Howard Wolpe, and had the opportunity to drive Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) to various campaign events in the state and had the chance to learn about the civil rights movement from one of its’ leaders. Rep. Lewis was President of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960’s; led people across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., and stood along side of Dr. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, when he delivered his infamous “I Have A Dream” speech. The Congressman’s district stretched from the inner city of Atlanta to its “Jewish” suburbs, similar to what the new 14th Congressional District looks like now here in Detroit. He saw an issue between blacks and Jews then and got the younger generation from each group together, ushered them into a hotel ballroom, said, “settle your differences,” and locked the ballroom door.
Despite being the children of G-d, we are each different and have two distinct cultures. But there’s really nothing to work out. The riots are over and no real issues have emerged to resolve. There will however, always be a need to understand each other better. Since the 1967 riots, our communities have been trying to build a bridge, so for 40+ years we have been trying to “work things out.” And perhaps for past 40 years we have been going at it all wrong.
As I mentioned, I am not from my parent’s generation. I grew up in an age when cultural diversity, awareness and sensitivity were each just becoming in vogue. My children are from a generation were the differences become irrelevant or lie just in the background. The first President of the United States that they will remember is black. I hosted a fundraiser for the Mayor of Detroit in our home, who I happened to work for, who just happened to be black. And although my children attend Hillel Day School, a Jewish day school, they have friends, classmates and teachers who also happen to be black. In fact, at Congregation Beth Shalom, we pray along side of people who just happen to be black. It is today, what they know and don’t know any different, just as I don’t remember the separate bathrooms or drinking fountains that my parents witnesses, other than what I learned in history.
So can we just wait for one generation to disappear for the next to ask, “What was all the fuss about? Instead of waiting, let’s work to create a better understanding about everyone who is different than us, including those in our own community. Let us respect each other for who we are, while at the same time, seek a better understanding of each other.
As a Jewish community, let us invite the African American community into our synagogues and temples just as we want to be welcomed into their church. Let’s invite them to the Holocaust Center to see how we were treated and almost exterminated by a person who did not respect us for our differences. Let us open our Sedar table to those that want to learn how we were once enslaved. And let us ask, the African American community if we can walk with them to trace their ancestor’s footsteps along the Underground Railroad, while visiting the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to see how they once were enslaved.
Together, let’s package and deliver kosher food through Yad Ezra and the next week serve food at a church’s shelter. Then we can celebrate our differences and respect our cultures, while eating matzah ball soup with corn bread and briscuit with some sweet potato pie.
Once we have a better understanding of each other than perhaps we can find ways to partner in a new business venture, mentor others and otherwise be vested with each other, not as two separate people, but as a region. We may look a little different, but in the end we all want the same thing –The opportunity to live side-by-side as one community. With the help of The Michigan Chronicle, The Detroit Jewish News and my children’s generation who will respect each other just because that is who they are, we will bridge the cultural divide not just in Detroit … But in the region.
*This article originally appeared in a November issue of The Detroit Jewish News.