As the nation marked the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a unique ceremony took place in the U.S. Capitol, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Freedom Rides Summer and honoring the 25th anniversary of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU).
The ceremony paid tribute to three civil-rights activists, one African-American and two Jewish-Americans: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, who were brutally murdered while working on the “Freedom Summer” campaign in Mississippi.
The program featured FFEU’s founder and president, Rabbi Marc Schneier, who was honored, along with Russell Simmons, FFEU chairman, for landmark efforts in restoring relations between the African-American and Jewish-American communities. Over 15 members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives spoke about their personal connections to the goals of the Foundation, including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, Rep. Henry Waxman (CA), Rep. Ted Deutch (FL), Rep. Cleaver (TX), Rep. Yvette Clarke (NY), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX), Rep. James Clyburn (SC), Rep. Bill Foster (IL), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (District of Columbia), Rep. Chaka Fattah (PA), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY), Rep. Steve Israel (NY), Rep. Alan Grayson (FL), Rep. Grace Meng (NY), and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL). FFEU Trustee Jason Kampf moderated the event. All in attendance, including congressional members, ambassadors, and African-American and Jewish-American leaders, received a copy of Rabbi Schneier’s book, Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Jewish Community with a preface by Martin Luther King III.
Since the civil-rights era, the historic Black-Jewish alliance had declined, leading to tensions between the two communities. In 1989, Rabbi Marc Schneier founded the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding to break tensions between the two communities and restore this alliance. For a quarter-of-a-century, FFEU and Rabbi Schneier have engaged Jewish-Americans and African-Americans in programs and activities to explore and rediscover shared values. FFEU is committed to promoting cooperation and strengthening relations between ethnic groups and among diverse communities. Over the past 25 years, FFEU has become the national and international address for Black-Jewish relations and Muslim-Jewish relations. v