BLACKS AND JEWS by Paul Berman


Alliances and Arguments
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 This angst-ridden compilation of essays reviews the last 30 years of intellectual cogitation about relations between blacks and Jews. Berman (editor of Debating PC, not reviewed) has selected 19 essays by well-known black and Jewish writers to create an essential ``literature'' of this ongoing dialogue. Divided into four rather vaguely titled sections (``Several Controversies,'' ``Philosophical Observations,'' etc.), the collection focuses on the social history of interrelations between black anti-Semitism and Jewish racism in America. While a half-dozen pieces here are new, many are classics in the field, such as James Baldwin's 1967 essay ``Negroes Are Anti-Semitic Because They're Anti-White'' and Norman Podhoretz's 1963 article, ``My Negro Problem--and Ours.'' Other notable contributors include Cynthia Ozick, Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Leon Wieseltier, bell hooks, and Shelby Steele. Among the most common subjects are: the ``golden days'' of black-Jewish cooperation during the civil rights era; the effect of white flight on urban black communities; the growing economic schism between blacks and Jews; black sympathy for Palestinians under Israeli rule; the Crown Heights riots of 1991; and frequent anti-Semitic remarks made by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. While each essay on its own is certainly valuable, the collection does not add up to more than the sum of its parts; Berman neglects to draw any conclusions from the black-Jewish debate. Two of the volume's original pieces, however, stand out. Joe Woods's ``The Problem Negro and Other Tales,'' a spicy critique of Podhoretz's insecurity about his own Jewishness, is a welcome exception to the generally analytical tone, and Julius Lester, in ``The Lives People Live,'' is the only author to outline a constructive course of action to resolve current problems plaguing black-Jewish relations. A worthwhile addition to the reference shelf of volumes that debate contentious ethnic issues but proffer no solutions.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-385-31117-6
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1994


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