At a webinar hosted by the Maryland Jewish Republican Council, Nicole Bennett, the chairman of the Maryland Black Republican Council and first vice-chairman of Maryland’s Republican Party, said he saw room for improvement when it comes to relations between the Black and Jewish communities.
“We need work,” Bennett said. “That bridge … has fallen in a bit of disrepair. It takes a level of introspection on both parts to kind of come to some common ground and work on our relationship. But I think having [an] open and honest discussion about where we are individually and what common goals we have will expedite that process.”
The purpose of the Nov. 7 webinar, titled “Blacks, Jews, and Conservatives: The New American Revivalists,” was to start a discussion on the longstanding coalition between the African American and Jewish communities. During the webinar, which was hosted on Zoom, attendees covered a range of topics, including issues that could help get Republicans elected, the role of the media and Black-Jewish relations, among others.
In addition to Bennett, the event’s attendees included Marie Fischer, chair of the Maryland Republican Jewish Council, and Rabbi Yaakov Menken, the managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.
Fischer said that the Maryland Republican Jewish Council was created because its founders saw the Republican Party as lacking a space to give voice to Jewish issues.
As for the webinar, it was created “because we felt we need the coalition, we need to build, we need to grow together,” said Fischer, who is Black and Jewish.
Fischer said that Black people, Jewish people and conservatives share an underlying value system focused on family and education.
Fischer viewed a focus on issues related to education as key to fostering a future “red wave” in the country, as evidenced by the recent election in Virginia. There, Republican Glenn Youngkin won the race for governor by campaigning against critical race theory being taught in Virginia schools, although it isn’t being taught there.
In Menken’s view, certain segments of the country are trying to divide the people by race. “They basically claim that the color of your skin is the sole determinant of whether you are personally persecuted or privileged, and we know from history that that’s nonsensical,” Menken said. “And a lot of those people immediately turn around and say, ‘Well, the Jews have white privilege.’ At the same time that they try to say the Jews only have to worry about white supremacists for hatred, they say the Jews have white privilege, which kind of, you know, they contradict each other, but it doesn’t matter how crazy the idea, we’re just going to divide people by race.”
One of the attendees, Joel Griffith, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who said he had roots in both the Jewish and the Baptist communities, expressed his concerns over opinions that figures in the media and academia express that influence people’s views, particularly on Israel.
“That really underscores the importance of identifying thought leaders and identifying those who are outspoken and helping them actually develop that platform to counter the very loud vocal voices on the other side,” Griffith said.