Former King colleague urges Jews, blacks to stay together

Rep. Lewis honored at a luncheon by NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind and the Black-Jewish Alliance.

john jewis (photo credit: Courtesy)
john jewis
(photo credit: Courtesy)
"As blacks and Jews, the wind may blow, the rain may beat down on an old house, be it a house in Brooklyn, Atlanta, America, Israel or Africa, but we all live in the same house," Rep. John Lewis, a leader of the civil rights movement who stood behind Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, told a group of Jewish and black leaders in Brooklyn this week. "We are one people, one family and we must stay together and build a society at peace with itself," he added. Lewis was honored at a luncheon on Sunday by New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind and the black-Jewish Alliance, which was inaugurated in January to address the 25 percent surge in anti-Semitic and racist incidents in the black and Jewish communities. The luncheon, hosted by Joe Lazar, who is running for City Council in September 2009, included 40 black and Jewish elected officials and community leaders. "After 26 years in office, I have an opportunity to stand in the presence of someone who is great," Hikind said. "What an unbelievable privilege it is for me. There are some exceptional people who put their lives on the line, that's what Lewis did. He's a great leader of his community but [also] a great friend of the Jewish community." "We have so much in common, but whenever we have differences we must make sure our differences do not divide us," Hikind continued. Hikind's remark was one of a few indirect references to November's presidential election, which threatens to divide blacks and Orthodox Jews who are expected to vote on opposite sides of the fence. Hikind, who recently wrote a piece for the conservative Jewish Press outlining his opposition to Barack Obama, will campaign against the presidential candidate in the coming months, placing ads in newspapers across America including key states such as Florida where Jews could play a crucial role in determining the country's next president. Hikind represents a district of 85% registered Democrats, but he is convinced that in November many will cross party lines. "Once in a while they vote Republican, but what I'm seeing this year is way beyond that," said Hikind. "The Jewish community beyond the Orthodox community are more concerned about Obama, whether it is justified or not." Hikind clearly believes it is. In his recent editorial Hikind goes so far as to suggest that Obama "consider removing himself from the race" for his 20-year relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, with whom he recently parted ways. "Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright is a rabid anti-Israel pastor," writes Hikind. "It defies any kind of logic for Obama to state that he was unaware of Rev. Wright's bizarre passions. Obama is clearly lying and that makes him irrevocably damaged." In the meantime Hikind is trying to prepare the ground before he begins campaigning against the country's first major-party black presidential nominee. He doesn't want to burn any bridges with black leaders with whom he works closely. "That's why I'm trying to do things in a way where people know my concerns, and that the issues I'm raising are legitimate," said Hikind. "I acknowledge he is a great candidate, and a source of great pride for many, but I won't shy away from the issues important to me."