Mississippi Freedom Summer: Voices of the Volunteers

1. Heather Booth If we organize, we can change the world. I learned this lesson powerfully from my experience with the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964. I was 18, a white Chicago student, joining with others to shine a spotlight on the conditions in Mississippi and the horrors of America’s apartheid system. I went to […]

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Black Liberation and Jewish Identity

From the Spring 2014 issue of Jewish Currents The exploitation and oppression of African Americans have been defining features of our country’s history since the first black slaves were hauled ashore in the Virginia colony in 1619. Black servitude was a keystone of our country’s wealth for more than two centuries, and underpaid black labor […]

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A Lock and Key on the Seder Plate

Jewish Currents has helped to organize a Jewish Working Group to End the New Jim Crow, which includes a task force within the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, T’ruah (formerly Rabbis for Human Rights—North America), and JFREJ (Jews for Racial and Economic Justice). This Working Group has promised three products: a Passover Haggadah supplement, a Jewish study […]

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February 25: Knocking Out Jack Johnson

One of the best boxers never to win a championship, “Chrysanthemum” Joe Choynski (1868-1943) knocked out a young Jack Johnson in their third round on this date in 1901 and then became Johnson’s trainer and prepared him for his own reign as America’s first black heavyweight champ. Choynski’s father was a Polish immigrant journalist and […]

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February 9: Alice Walker and Mel Leventhal

Alice Walker, whose many accomplishments include a Pulitzer Prize for her novel, The Color Purple (1982), was born in a sharecropping family in Georgia on this date in 1944. In 1967, Walker married the activist Jewish civil rights attorney Mel Leventhal, with whom she lived in Jackson, Mississippi. They were very possibly the first legally […]

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January 26: The Apollo Theater

Harlem’s Apollo Theater opened its doors as an entertainment center for the African-American community for the first time on this date in 1934 with a show, “Jazz a la Carte,” headlined by Benny Carter and his Orchestra. All the proceeds of this show were donated to the Harlem Children’s Fresh Air Fund. Founded in 1913 […]

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December 7: The Civil Rights Judge

Louis Pollak, dean of the Yale and University of Pennsylvania law schools who simultaneously served as an adviser to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, was born in Manhattan on this date in 1922 to progressive parents, his father an attorney for the defense in the “Scottsboro Boys” case. In 1965, Pollak convinced the […]

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For the Sin of Racism

by Rabbi Jonathan Kligler The Vidui, the communal confession of sins that we chant on Yom Kippur, is actually an elaborate acrostic. The ancient litany makes its creative way through the entire Hebrew alphabet, enumerating all of the ways that we have missed the mark, from Aleph to Tav, the Hebrew A to Z. The […]

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