Blacks and Jews once modeled a path to end racial distancing
To escape the horrific racism and systemic oppression in the South, beginning in 1916, millions of southern Blacks migrated north and west to places like Chicago, East St. Louis, Compton, Oakland and Baltimore. And to Harlem, which at the time was home to a sizable Yiddish-speaking Jewish community, also trying to make their own way in a still challenging America. Blacks and Jews were each other’s neighbors, customers, and employers.
One result of that was Black men and women becoming Jewish cantors. Cantors lead the Hebrew (and back then Yiddish) prayer songs on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. This odd entry into Jewish religious life presented an opportunity for Jews and Blacks to get to know each other and end what I call racial and ethnic distancing. This essay explores that fascinating time in our history.
READING THE ESSAYS
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