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85 minutes, 1997 Producers: Alan Snitow, Deborah Kaufman and Bari Scott, Directors: Alan Snitow, Deborah Kaufman An online FACILITATOR GUIDE is available for this title.
ABOUT THE FILM
The faultline between Blacks and Jews is one of the most visible symbols of America's racial divide. This film, made collaboratively by Jewish and Black filmmakers, goes behind the headlines and the rhetoric to try to heal the misunderstanding and mistrust. Blacks & Jews was acclaimed at the Sundance Film Festival for initiating a frank yet constructive nationwide dialogue between these two traditional allies.
During the Civil Rights movement, Blacks and Jews fought together for equal rights. With the waning of that movement, differences in economic status caused both groups to turn inward. Positions hardened around such divisive issues as affirmative action in the schools, Louis Farrakhan's anti-Semitism, even Jewish influence in Hollywood.
Blacks & Jews cuts through the sensationalized media coverage and the stereotypes to re-examine key conflicts from the perspectives of activists on both sides.
The Crown Heights riots in New York dramatizes the distrust between these two communities. But we also meet a Black man who saved a Hassid's life and a Jewish leader who works to brings the youth of both communities together.
During the 1960s, "blockbusting" in Chicago pitted Jewish owners against Black homebuyers. A rabbi recounts how he took on real estate speculators and racism in the Jewish community as a leader of an interethnic coalition. A former Black Muslim leader explains the attraction of the Nation of Islam to many African Americans and why he finally left the movement.
When a group of Black teens in Oakland laughed during a screening of Schindler's List, it launched a feeding frenzy in the press and a political circus for demagogues on both sides. Students and teachers tell what really happened and how they took steps to increase understanding of both the Holocaust and slavery.
Scholars and critics such as Gary Rubin, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Michael Lerner, Salim Muwakkil, Cornel West and Clayborne Carson place these stories in context and explain how attitudes have hardened as a result of competition over a stagnant economic pie, a shared psychology of victimization and exploitive media coverage.
Blacks & Jews offers no Panglossian assurances of easy racial harmony. But screenings of this film can cut through the anger and emotion on both sides and demonstrate that dialogue and cooperation must be based in a serious effort to understand and value the experience of others. Synagogues and churches, campus ministries and student advisors, community organizers and antiracism activists will all find Blacks & Jews an invaluable new tool for increasing mutual understanding and building coalitions for social justice, not just between Blacks and Jews, but between all ethnic groups.
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"Provocative and absorbing... Blacks and Jews will undermine stereotypes, inspire discussion, and help repair a wrongly damaged relationship."
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times
"Well documented, balanced, and sensitive to nuance - an unusual combination in any film, but essential for a documentary on this controversial subject. I strongly recommend you see it!"
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University
"Blacks & Jews will help make it possible for African Americans to understand Jewish sensitivities - and help make Jewish Americans more attentive to the challenges facing the black community. Members of both communities - indeed, ALL communities in America - need to see and discuss this important film."
Mayor Willie Brown, Jr., San Francisco
"Wonderfully entertaining - and illuminating...This important film has immediate implications for the way the two groups perceive and interact with each other...and should be embraced by Jewish and black organizations."