by Drew Diamond
During a recent Tulsa Race Riot Centennial Commission meeting to plan the 2021 anniversary events, mention was made of the role of Jewish shop owners in protecting Black community members from the white mob. This discussion prompted me to reflect on the state of Black and Jewish relations in Tulsa and nationally.
Upon a long road stretching through 250 years of American history, Jews and Blacks have traveled together. Of course, as with any relationship, this journey has been complicated by twists, turns, and detours. Even so, we are still fellow travelers bound by both peoples’ deep commitment to social as well as economic justice in the combined effort to protect every person’s civil and human rights.
The history in Tulsa of this relationship between the small Black community and the even smaller Jewish community is replete with accounts of mutual respect and aid. Our stories stretch from working through the murderous 1921 attack on our Black community, to marching arm in arm in the fight for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, to today’s fight for social justice.
We share a legacy of moving from enslavement and genocidal attacks to freedom and security. Unquestionably, the intensity of systemic racism and disparate treatment aimed at the black community in Tulsa continues to have a more destructive affect than the ever-present background noise of anti-Semitism.
Community is about being there for each other. As a Jewish community to the Black community and all others we say, “Here we are,” or in Hebrew, “Hineni,” meaning “I am here for you fully, with the trust and vulnerability to do whatever it is you ask of me.” Common to all humanity is the freedom to choose to do good. If we make this choice, to be there for each other, in the end we are all stronger.