J. (SAN FRANCISCO) -- In 1982, when 18-year-old Marc Dollinger walked onto the UC Berkeley campus as a freshman, he immediately joined the campus Jewish Student Union. His next move was to wander over to Sproul Plaza, where there was a Black Student Union table, and ask to join the group.
The young man at the table laughed. And laughed.
“That was a huge wake-up call for me,” says Dollinger, today the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in Jewish Studies and Social Responsibility at San Francisco State University. “That was the moment when I realized that everything I learned growing up in the suburbs may not have been the whole story.”
Thirty-five years later, Dollinger has written Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s, which explains why he got laughed out of Sproul Plaza.
Dollinger examines the short-lived alliance between blacks and Jews, how and why it fractured — and how that split led to the rise of Jewish activism, for Jewish causes. It also reveals how for decades, many in the Jewish community were in denial about the fact that blacks did not want Jews to be part of their movement. That, in fact, the Jewish narrative that American Jews were also an oppressed minority and therefore were partners in the fight for civil rights was a powerful and self-serving story, but a false one.
Image courtesy of University Press of New England