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Wonderful Show of Unity Between Blacks and Jews in Jersey City

That damn sufgniya powdered sugar in my eyes yet again!

All day Monday, volunteers trickled in and out of the Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center in Jersey City’s Greenville neighborhood, lining up boxes upon boxes of pretzel challah, soup mix, hummus, turkey and chocolate. Trucks backed up to the community center to unload pallets of food and toys from nearby Jewish vendors.

Thirteen days earlier, and just four blocks down Martin Luther King Drive, two shooters entered the JC Kosher Supermarket, killing three people during a gun battle with police and shaking this African-American neighborhood with a growing Hasidic community. (The shooters had killed a police officer before taking a van to the market.)

On Monday, the feeling could not have been more different, black and Jewish volunteers working together on a charity drive on the second night of Hanukkah and two days before Christmas. The food and presents were delivered to hundreds of local families in need.

“We’ve been in communication since the tragedy on Dec. 10 trying to find ways to work together as a community,” said Pam Johnson, a drive organizer and the leader of the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement. “We wanted to make sure that we sent a clear message of solidarity, that we are all in this together.”

The drive was born of an informal meeting Thursday between Jewish community leaders and local officials. By Monday, with the help of Masbia, a network of Brooklyn soup kitchens, a handful of kosher food vendors, Jewish-owned toy companies and a nonprofit came together to rustle up supplies.

“A lot of nice words are being spoken, and, yeah — unity, unity — but we wanted to find a way to really show the community that from now on, unity means more than words,” said Benny Polatseck, who volunteered at the event. “There needs to be more awareness in the Orthodox community that we live together in the community. We have to acknowledge and see one another.”

“It felt amazing — it’s more than amazing,” said Chesky Deutsch, who has lived in Greenville for two years and was an organizer of the drive. “We moved into this community, and I see these people every day, and I see some of them are really desperate, really, really in need, and I really feel for them, so it felt amazing to actually do something.”

Deutsch and Johnson both said that Greenville’s black and Jewish residents share common priorities: keeping their kids safe and the neighborhood affordable. They plan to meet in the coming days to see how they can continue collaborating.

This show of unity between observant (Zionist) Jews and African Americans represents terrible news for those, like Linda Sarsour, trying to sow the seeds of division between the communities.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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