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Introduction

  1. If you have not done the lesson Jews and African Americans: Siblings in Oppression?, explain that many American Jews identified with African Americans because they felt both groups shared a history of oppression and slavery. (Think of the song, Go Down Moses, an African American spiritual that was added to the Passover Seder in the 1960s, which became symbolic of that relationship.) Some African Americans, however, felt that there was a big difference between the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt in the biblical period and African American slavery and oppression in more recent times.

    OR

    If you already have done the lesson "Jews and African Americans: Siblings in Oppression?" review with your students what they learned in that lesson.
  2. Ask your students:
    • What is powerful about the analogy of Israelite slavery in Egypt and African American slavery in the U.S.? What "works" about this analogy for African Americans? For Jews?
    • What are some limitations of the analogy of Egyptian slavery and the African American experience?
    • Why do you think some African Americans might have resented the comparison?
  3. Explain that latent tensions between Jews and African Americans began to come to the surface in the late 1960's and the Civil Rights Movement began to fracture as African American leaders spoke of Black Power, whites (including Jews) were forced out of many civil rights organizations, Jews accused African Americans of anti-Semitism and saw the meritocracy that had worked for them threatened by affirmative action. (See essay for further details.)

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Introduction." (Viewed on July 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/node/11994>.

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