James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner are significant figures in American and American Jewish history. These three men, who were Jewish and African American, were brutally murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi, in 1964 by members of the Ku Klux Klan while they were registering African Americans to vote. Their deaths led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act and a remarkable display of public outrage. This was followed by another historic moment in 1965 when Jewish leaders, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Rabbi Maurice Davis, joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders in a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
The involvement of American Jews in the fight for civil rights has been ongoing for years. Notably, in the early 1900s, Jewish leaders worked alongside black leaders to create groups such as the NAACP. Jewish individuals and organizations have consistently supported causes of social justice and equal rights, donating to various civil rights groups and advocating for marginalized communities.
Fast forward to the present day, Jews remain heavily involved in movements for social justice and equality. Following the murder of George Floyd, numerous Jewish organizations and synagogues publicly declared that “Black lives matter.” Furthermore, Jews have stood up for other marginalized groups such as Latino and Asian Americans, as well as advocating for women’s and LGBTQ rights.
Amid this continuing commitment to social justice, Jewish individuals have been urging their allies to stand in solidarity with them, especially in the face of recent attacks on the Jewish community. Some groups, notably the National Action Network, National Urban League, NAACP, and Drum Major Institute, initially expressed solidarity with Israel following a deadly terrorist attack in October 2021. However, as the conflict progressed and antisemitism spiked, their support faltered or declined altogether. Some groups even expressed explicit support for Hamas and its acts of violence against Israel.
These actions have left many Jewish individuals questioning the commitment and support of their former allies. Specifically, the involvement of movements such as Black Lives Matter, some LGBTQ groups, and others in supporting or justifying violence against the Jewish community has caused considerable unease among Jews who have long supported these causes.
The ongoing events have sparked a conversation among liberal Jews about whether similar support and alliance exist for them within the groups with whom they have historically aligned themselves. The call for solidarity and support from allies remains a crucial issue as Jews continue to advocate for fairness, equal rights, and social justice.