Black-Jewish relations subject of campus forum

University students organize Princeton Committee on Prejudice.

By: Jeff Milgram
   In April 2003, New Jersey’s controversial poet laureate, Amiri Baraka, came to Princeton University to participate in a poetry reading that was scheduled as an introduction to a program on African-American reparations.
   Instead of talking about reparations, Mr. Baraka "focused on his problems with the United States government, Israel and Jews in general," Princeton University sophomore Dylan Tatz wrote to Shai Goldman of the New Jersey office of the Anti-Defamation League.
   Knowing that Mr. Baraka had a reputation for holding anti-Semitic views, Mr. Tatz prepared informational fliers that were handed out before the program at the Frist Campus Center.
   "After the lecture, Mr. Baraka held a discussion but I was barred from attending," Mr. Tatz wrote.
   Mr. Tatz and about 20 other Jewish students tried — and failed — to persuade the university’s Black Student Union, the Princeton Justice Project — which sponsored the reparation program — and the university administration to issue a joint statement denouncing Mr. Baraka’s views.
   Then, Mr. Tatz and two friends, Karen Karnioll-Tambour and Nathaniel Fintz, organized a group — the Princeton Committee on Prejudice.
   The group will bring together two of the most prominent figures in ethnic studies — Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University and the Institute for Advanced Study and Murray Friedman of Temple University — to examine the relationship between blacks and Jews in a discussion scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 23 in McCosh 50 on the Princeton campus.
   The discussion, which is free and open to the public, is the inaugural event of Black-Jewish Relations Week, organized by the committee.
   "Even though black-Jewish relations are fairly good on campus, I feel that promoting increased cross-cultural understanding is always beneficial, not only to both sides involved, but to the entire Princeton community," Mr. Tatz said.
   After the discussion on March 23, there will be a question-and-answer period. And as a way of keeping the discussion going in the weeks following, there will be small dialogue groups moderated by students who take part in university programs devoted to cross-cultural communication.
   "The goals of the committee are twofold," Mr. Tatz said. "First, to keep tabs on bigoted and/or offensive rhetoric on campus, and to lead appropriate responses when necessary. Second, to create a campuswide dialogue on issues of prejudice so as to promote acceptance and understanding among all racial, ethnic and religious groups."
   Mr. Tatz said the organization is both responsive and proactive.
   As an example of a responsive reaction, the committee took part in a "rational discussion among rational people" in November on the subject, "Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitism?"
   Black-Jewish Relations Week is an example of how the committee works proactively, Mr. Tatz said.
   Two additional events are scheduled for Black-Jewish Relations Week. A screening of "From Swastika to Jim Crow," a PBS documentary that details the relationship between Jewish professors and their students at historically black colleges in the 1940s, will be held at 8 p.m., March 27 in 101 McCormick Hall.
   "Memories of Genocide: Survivors’ Stories from Rwanda and Poland," featuring two speakers who escaped mass killings in their home countries, is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., March 30 in 302 Frist Campus Center. David Gewirtzman, whose family survived the Holocaust by hiding under a pigsty on a Polish farm, and Jacqueline Murekatete, whose parents and siblings were killed by a rival tribe in Rwanda, will speak about fighting hate across cultures and generations.
   "In putting these events together, I have worked closely with my good friend, Leslie-Bernard Joseph, the president of the Black Student Union, a co-sponsor for all three events and the primary black student group on campus," Mr. Tatz said. "Leslie and I have sought to promote attendance at these events, as well as participation in the small dialogue groups."
   Professor Gates is chairman of the Department of African and African-American Studies at Harvard. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study.
   Professor Friedman is director of the Myer and Rosaline Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple and a former vice chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
   The events are co-sponsored by the Bildner Fund-Dialogue@Princeton, the Black Student Union, the Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, the Arthur and Arnold Frankel Foundation of the Center for Jewish Life, the Office of Religious Life, the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, the Program in African-American Studies, the Program in Judaic Studies, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the Pace Center for Community Service, the Undergraduate Student Government, CommonSense and Paideia.