Black-Jewish Relations in the United States

  • Faculty: Moshe Kornfeld
  • Schedule: Tuesdays/Thursdays 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
  • Course Number: L57 RelPol 230

The relationship of Blacks and Jews in the United States is at once intimate and strained, mutually beneficial and antagonistic. This course examines this uneasy alliance from a number of perspectives including anthropology, politics and identity politics, history, religion, and class. Beginning with American anthropology’s Jewish founding father, Franz Boas, challenging the concept of race, the course traces the relations of blacks and Jews throughout the twentieth century and in our contemporary moment. We will pay particular attention to the civil rights era, which is commonly upheld as the golden age of Black-Jewish relations, as well as to this alliance’s unraveling in the post-civil rights era. The course then moves to a unit focused on more recent ruptures and collaborations including the 1991 Crown Heights race riots, during which Orthodox Jews clashed with their Black neighbors, and Jewish involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement. The course concludes with a unit on identity and identity politics focused on the complexity and fluidity of the categories “white,” “black,” and “Jewish.”