Jewish-black dialogue promoted at MLK event

In an effort to improve Jewish-black dialogue on campus and promote intercultural cooperation, the Brandeis Orthodox Organization and the Brandeis Black Student Organization hosted a jam session in the Intercultural Center last Tuesday.

The purpose of the program was to “Promote friendship between black and Jewish students, on campus and beyond,” said BOO member Jeremy Heyman ’08, who organized the event. “We have a lot of Jews here and not a lot of blacks, so I think it is important that everyone gets along,” he said. Heyman stressed the importance of casual events in which people can mingle and get to know each other.

“Cooperation is very much needed,” said Shaina Gilbert ’10, BBSO representative to the ICC, in relation to promoting intercultural relations. “It’s good to have an official place to talk about it.”

The event featured student rapper Justin Zullo ’09, accompanied by Gabe Gaskin ’08 on the saxophone, Binny Kagedan ’08 on the electric guitar and DJ Enigma, also known as Raj Stewart, a Neuroscience Ph.D. student. At the event, kosher “J-Soul” food was served, including macaroni and cheese, cornbread, peach cobbler and other snacks in honor of the mixing of black and Jewish cultures.

After several musical numbers, Heyman welcomed everyone to the event and displayed a slideshow featuring images of blacks and Jews working and living together. Videos of interviews with black and Jewish Brandeis students, whose names were not given, about how their relationships with members of other races have changed since coming to Brandeis followed the slideshow.

“There’s more to Judaism than just what I see on TV,” one student said. Another student from Brooklyn said that he was shocked to see that not all Jews wear black hats and have curled sidelocks.

In their interviews, other students expressed disappointment with the interracial relations at Brandeis. One Jewish girl from western Massachusetts said that at her high school, the black and Jewish populations were so small that they interacted easily, but here at Brandeis, because the populations are so large, they are more separate. In some cases the backlight was so strong the participants’ faces were indiscernible. There were no credits or announcements made about the people featured in the interviews.

Heyman went on to present a short clip of black Jewish rapper “Y-Love,” Yitz Jordan, who spoke about the need for interethnic unity.

According to Heyman, this was the first jam session co-sponsored by the two organizations. In the past, there have been BOO-BBSO barbecues, but these were before his time, Heyman said. Last year they invited race relations specialist Dr. David Lazerton, better known as Dr. Laz, who aided in the resolution of the Crown Heights riots.

New BOO president Katie Schlussel ’10 made the decision to bring back BOO/BBSO social events. She said she is very excited to resume the relationship between the two clubs.

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