cover image Jews and Blacks

Jews and Blacks

Cornel West. Putnam Publishing Group, $24.95 (276pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14046-4

The complex history and diverse voices of the relationship between American blacks and Jews necessarily mean that two individuals can't definitively represent hardly homogeneous groups. Thus, readers might best see these edited dialogues as an instructive introduction to the territory. West (Race Matters), who teaches Afro-American studies and religion at Harvard, and Lerner (Jewish Renewal), founder of Tikkun magazine, range from personal histories to current controversies. They disagree on topics like black criticism of Israel and the depth of black anti-Semitism, and they make some worthy points on topics like the symbolism of the Holocaust Museum and the current estrangement of the two groups. However, both men are of the left, and their rhetoric sometimes degenerates into a laundry list of laments, especially Lerner's harping on his ``politics of meaning.'' Their ultimate proposal: a campaign of ``healing and repair in both communities,'' aimed at fighting both anti-Semitism and racism. An ambitious agenda, given that, as they note, there are currently few links between Jewish and black progressives. (Apr.)