Over 170 celebrities join Black-Jewish Entertainment Alliance

“I think we are all much more aware of patterns of systemic racism and the damage done to us all when anyone is denigrated," Mayim Bialik told The Jerusalem Post via email.

TV star Mayim Bialik. (photo credit: REUTERS)
TV star Mayim Bialik.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In March, 56 years will have elapsed since Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel linked arms and marched as part of the civil rights protest from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
However, in those intervening years, relations between Blacks and Jews have become strained, and with the rise of anti-Semitism in America as well as ongoing institutional racism against Black Americans, this week, more than 170 Black and Jewish people in the entertainment industry signed a unity statement to launch the Black-Jewish Entertainment Alliance.
The aim of the organization is to stand together to counter anti-Semitism and racism within the industry, and heavyweights from both communities have signed on, including Tiffany Haddish, Jason Alexander, Nick Cannon, Mayim Bialik,  Billy Porter and Gene Simmons. 
In a statement, Aaron Bay-Schuck, co chairman and CEO of Warner Records said, “The Black and Jewish communities, who have a long history of supporting and working together, are so much stronger when we stand together in the fight against hate. This Alliance will elevate voices in the entertainment community that can help the public to better understand the causes, manifestations, and effects of racism and anti-Semitism, ensuring that our industry is doing its part to be a voice for hope, unity and healing in our country.”
The unity statement itself reads: 
“We acknowledge that the Black and Jewish communities have a shared history of subjugation and persecution.
“We recognize that the Black community in America has faced a history of racism that continues to this day, while the Jewish community is currently encountering record levels of anti-Semitism, which affects both group's sense of fear, vulnerability and self-worth.
“As members of the entertainment community, we stand against all forms of hate, and pledge to work to bring our two communities together in solidarity, to support one another in our struggles, and to better understand each other’s plight and narratives.
“The Jewish community must continue to speak out against racial injustice and work to effect change, while the Black community must continue to speak out against all forms of anti-Semitism.
“In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., Rabbi Abraham Heschel, and the many Blacks and Jews who stood together in the fight for civil rights, we come together to support each other in the struggle against hatred and bigotry.
“In the words of the late John Lewis, "We are one people, one family, the human family, and what affects one of us affects us all.”
Jewish actress and producer Mayim Bialik told The Jerusalem Post via email, “I think we are all much more aware of patterns of systemic racism and the damage done to us all when anyone is denigrated. Images we see in the media do matter. What we put out as an industry has the ability to reflect values of kindness and thoughtfulness.”
“Racism is racism is racism. All of it is unacceptable,” Israeli actress and activist Noa Tishby told The Post in a Zoom interview. “I think this Alliance is absolutely crucial. For American Jews; for Israeli Jews in America to see the rift between Jews and the African American community in America has been absolutely heartbreaking. It negates years and years of alliance that Theodore Herzl wrote in his 1902 book Aultneuland, which was talking about African self-determination and fighting against racism of any kind. He talked even then about how judging Black people by the color of their skin was wrong. More woke than that? It doesn’t exist.”
Tishby’s activism roots run deep, which will be explored in her book being released in April titled Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth. She shared a story that is in her book about how in 1956 her grandfather became the first ever representative to be sent to the continent of Africa  — to what was then called The Gold Coast, before it became Ghana. 
“He saw African nations as kin,” Tishby said. “They had been fighting for their independence and against racism just as we Jews had. I grew up with this ethos.” 
British-born, Los Angeles-based Markell Casey, senior director of Pulse Music Group said, “This Alliance is something that is very dear to me on many levels.”
Casey has friends in the industry who are Jewish and had been having conversations about Blacks and Jews, particularly in the wake of the summer protests following the killing of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer. 
“I heard some shocking things,” Casey said. “Dodgy things being said about Jews and it reminded me of the Hutu and Tutsi [during the Rwandan genocide in 1994], where people were being dehumanized, and it felt like this was happening again. I thought, as a human being I have to challenge these things in  a sphere where I have a small modicum of influence, and just really use the moment to educate people.”
He added that there is definitely a need for the Alliance at this point in time because “there is no such thing as objective truth anymore and I think that is now permeating Black people and Jewish people. We have to stand up as a society and say, ‘No. Jews did not invent the slave trade and Jews don’t kill their kids.” Whatever Louis Farrakhan is saying is not true.”
Casey believes there is good reason for those in the industry to lead this charge. “I think we’re thought leaders,” he said. “In some cases we are opinion shapers and we have platforms that can influence a lot of young kids.” 
Discussing their own experiences of anti-Semitism and racism, Bialik said, “As a person who regularly visits my family in Israel, no matter my political leanings or repeated declarations that I am a liberal, I continue to experience the most egregious accusations about me and my people simply because we are Jewish. The hatred some people continue to have for Jews seems unhinged from reality in many cases. My teenage son has experienced anti-Semitism on social media platforms he is on. It’s devastating to me that he is exposed to hatred and I do my best to give it context for him.”
Tishby also said she’s subject to a lot of anti-Semitism on social media, “and I’m probably going to experience even more of it when my book comes out. What can I do? I’ll try not to be on Twitter a lot.”
Casey said he has encountered racism at different points in his life, simply because of the color of his skin. “But my dad would always tell me to never be a victim.” He added he’s also experienced “reverse racism, where people tell me, ‘You’re really well spoken. I wasn’t really expecting that from someone like you,” and I don’t know what they mean by ‘someone like me.’”
He added he believes healing will come by inviting “each other [Blacks and Jews] into our spaces so we can share and understand each other’s journeys: Our pains, our successes, our struggles our triumphs. And an understanding of our histories.” 
The Alliance already has several such programs in the works. On Feb. 17, it will host a panel titled “Diverse Voices: Growing Up Both Black and Jewish,” and on Feb. 22 and 23 there will be a panel titled, “United Through Music: A Discussion on Black and Jewish Collaboration Through the Years.” The panel will include Gene Simmons and Sharon Osbourne among others. 
Said Tishby, “Having powerful voices within the Black and Jewish entertainment communities is extremely important. I’m very much looking forward to being Tiffany Haddish’s best friend.”