In 1984, a special seder in Providence, hosted by what we then called the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, drew more than 200 people. The idea: to bring Jewish and African American celebrants together. This was the fourth such “Black-Jewish” seder organized by the ADL, and speeches that night touched on shared oppression and the story of Exodus.
The relationship between Jewish Americans and African Americans is long and complicated, with waves of tension in the 1970s and ’80s. But as Reverend Charles Stith of Boston’s Union United Methodist Church put it that evening: “Both sides must discard lots of excess baggage and rid themselves of stereotypical images, to seek justice and equity because both communities need each other and because it is logical to come together as a cogent response to troubling conditions in a troubling world.”