Black-Jewish Relations

Founded in 1989 to transform rising tensions between Black and Jewish communities in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) works to restore the historic alliance between African and Jewish Americans, an alliance which had reached its strongest point during the American Civil Rights Movement. Co-founded by Rabbi Marc Schneier and Joseph Papp, a leader in colorblind casting, the FFEU stands against racism and honors a pioneer in diversity every year with the Joseph Papp Racial Harmony Award. The Foundation organizes activities and spearheads initiatives that improve Black-Jewish relations such as promoting MLK programs in Jewish Schools and synagogues throughout New York, fighting Anti-Semitism with campaigns: "Say No to K.O." , and social events targeted for students.

Over the years, FFEU has also worked with the Congressional Black Caucus and Jewish Congressmen and women in order to advocate for shared social justice interests. FFEU has hosted racial harmony events, Martin Luther King Jr. memorial events, and other programming in order to rebuild relations between Black and Jewish communities in the United States. FFEU continues to fight against racism and anti-Semitism through public awareness campaigns such as PSAs from notable public figures like Stevie Wonder, Russell Simmons, and Jay Z.

In June, 2014, as the nation marked the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a unique ceremony took place in the US 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 their landmark efforts in restoring relations between the African-American and Jewish-American communities.

Soul to Soul 2016: Yiddish and African-American Music meet in a celebration of two cultures

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In our times, we find ourselves challenged once more, to stand together in unity to drown out the voices of hatred with a defiantly joyful song.

A joyful and moving concert exploring the parallel experience of two minority peoples path to find America’s promise of freedom, overcoming segregation, prejudice and economic hardship. This concert features stirring songs in Yiddish and in English, culminating in a high-energy collection of enthralling songs from the Civil Rights era.

This concert features Lisa Fishman (The Golden Bride), Cantor Magda Fishman (Temple Beth El of Stamford, CT), Elmore James (Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast) and Tony Perry (Five Guys Named Moe). Conceived with musical direction by NYTF Artistic Director, Zalmen Mlotek.

19th Annual Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project Economic Summit Held On Feb. 16-18, 2016 With The Theme "Wall Street: The New Paradigm - Access To Opportunity"

Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, III (Senior Pastor, Abyssinian Baptist Church, Harlem, NY), Rabbi Marc Schneier and Jennifer Jones Austin (CEO and Executive Director of Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, NY).

Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, III (Senior Pastor, Abyssinian Baptist Church, Harlem, NY), Rabbi Marc Schneier and Jennifer Jones Austin (CEO and Executive Director of Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, NY).

FFEU President Rabbi Marc Schneier joined Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and many other notable inter-faith leaders on a luncheon at Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel to discuss the role of the church as an economic driver and facilitator of community economic development. Also, the group talked about the resources needed by faith-based organizations to be more actively involved in the development and re-development of their communities; and examined the pivotal role the church must take on to advance financial literacy, healthcare, social justice, technology education and voter registration.  

On February 2016, Russell Simmons and Rabbi Marc Schneier will co-chair Let the Freedom Ring project, in celebration of the Black History Month


Founded in Williamsburg in 1776, the First Baptist Church is one of the country's oldest African-American houses of worship and a symbol of the faith, struggle, and perseverance that marks the black experience in America. The First Baptist Church—whose earliest members met under thatched arbors in the woods—acquired a bell in the late 19th century that, since the days of segregation and Jim Crow, has been inoperable... unheard throughout the tumult and progress of the civil rights movement and in the presence of famed worshipers who include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which played a key role in building the church at its current site, has pledged to restore the bell to working condition and, along with First Baptist, to challenge the nation to ring the bell for freedom throughout the day, every day, for Black History Month.

The First Baptist Church and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation are reaching out to all Americans, of every color, faith, and creed, to sound the bell. A silent bell represents unfinished work of freedom and equality. This bell, in this sacred and historic church, will be silent no more and our quest for a more perfect union will continue.

On January 17, 2016, Russell Simmons, Rabbi Marc Schneier And The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene Will Present Soul To Soul — A Concert Celebrating African-American And Yiddish Music!

On Sunday January 17, 2016, In Commemoration Of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, NYTF Presents SOUL TO SOUL, An Electrifying Theatrical Concert That Explores The Intersections Between African-American And Yiddish Musical Traditions.

The 101-year-old National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene [NYTF], the producers of the season’s critically-acclaimed operetta of THE GOLDEN BRIDE, announces the first concert of 2016 at its new home the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City.

“This concert is about building community” says Zalmen Mlotek, “in a year of unprecedented resurgence in Yiddish, SOUL TO SOUL continues to carry an important through-line we started with THE GOLDEN BRIDE.”


SOUL TO SOUL will take place on January 17 at 2pm, in the Museum’s Edmond J. Safra Theatre, and is presented by National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in collaboration with the Museum of Jewish Heritage and The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding: Rabbi Marc Schneier, President; Russell Simmons, Chairman. Tickets are $20 general admission and $15 for MJH and NYTF members and can be purchased by calling (212) 213-2120 x204 or online here (

Reps. Hastings, Engel, Lewis, Frankel, Wilson, Wasserman Schultz, Deutch, Lowey, Lowenthal, Zeldin and Love Host Black and Jewish Members of Congress Breakfast (June 2015)

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), in conjunction with Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), John Lewis (D-GA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Mia Love (R-UT), hosted a breakfast for Black and Jewish Members of Congress. The purpose of this breakfast was to reflect on the shared experiences of Black and Jewish Americans, and to make certain that these communities continue to work collaboratively to eliminate racism and anti-Semitism both abroad and here at home:

“I was delighted to be joined by so many of my colleagues in Congress and leaders in both the Black and Jewish community this morning for my Annual Black and Jewish Members of Congress Breakfast,” said Congressman Alcee L. Hastings. “The presentations and discussions that took place today confirmed what we know to be true – that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. We must continue to work across our communities to eliminate hatred and bigotry from our nation, and indeed the entire world.”

Also attending the breakfast was Rabbi Marc Schneier, Founder and President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, as well as Rabbi Ari Sunshine of B’nai Shalom Congregation, Reverend Robyn E. Franklin-Vaughn of the Howard University School of Divinity, and student leaders Henry Bowe, Jr. and Maya Bornstein from Operation Understanding D.C. Following Congressman Hastings’ opening remarks, blessings were offered by Rabbi Sunshine and Reverend Franklin-Vaughn, who also shared brief words about their work in engaging and uniting the Black and Jewish communities.

Featured speaker Rabbi Schneier stated “The gathering this morning, celebrating the historic and ongoing Black-Jewish alliance, reminded us that a people who fight for their own right are only as honorable as when they fight for the rights of all people.”

This breakfast is an opportunity to continue strengthening the bonds of the Black and Jewish communities who have, for so long, worked together to promote social justice and overcome the common threat of bigotry,” said Congresswoman Lois Frankel.

Congressman Eliot Engel said, “There has always been a special bond between the Jewish and black communities, as both peoples have had to overcome a tremendous amount of discrimination and hatred. As the horrific events in Charleston last week have shown us, that discrimination and hatred is still alive and well in the hearts of an ignorant few, which is why this breakfast takes on an extra special significance today. We come here in the spirit of cooperation and understanding, standing together against the forces of oppression in the fight for equality and social justice. I cannot think of a better cause to stand for. I am delighted to be able to participate in this important breakfast, and I thank Congressman Hastings for hosting.”

I am thrilled to cohost the breakfast again to celebrate our communities’ shared values and commitment to action. Earlier this year, I was honored to participate in the commemoration of the historic march on Selma, which strengthened my resolve to work together to pursue the causes that we are still fighting for: equal access to justice, and voting rights for every single citizen of this nation. As we continue to reel from the horror and tragedy in South Carolina, it is crucial that we continue to work together to combat justice and intolerance,” said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson stated, “The parallels between racism and antisemitism are undeniable and have served to strengthen the bond between the African-American and Jewish communities,” said Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson. “This history also has helped us forge an enduring commitment to work together to combat social injustice and all efforts to deny any group, regardless of race, creed or ethnicity, of their equal rights.”

“I am humbled to honor the partnership of Jewish Americans and African Americans with this breakfast. Our Jewish brothers and sisters were there with African Americans as we marched for voting rights. They supported the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the NAACP, and the Urban League. Jewish Americans made up 50 percent of the civil rights attorneys in the South during the 1960s. Together we have fought for justice, and together we will continue to walk hand-in-hand as we create what Martin Luther King, Jr. calls the “Beloved Community,” asserted Congressman John Lewis.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey stated, “The act of violence and hate in Charleston last week is an affront to us all - just as the anti-Semitic attack in Paris earlier this year brought grief and heartache far beyond France and the Jewish community. That’s why our two communities must stand resolutely together and remember that just as our interests are intertwined, so too are our destinies. By working together, we can leave a better world for generations to come.”

Student leaders from Operation Understanding D.C. (OUDC) gave remarks regarding their experiences in the program, and spoke eloquently about the need to instill in our youth a commitment to ending racism and prejudice in all of its forms. OUDC Program Director Avi Edelman remarked “It is only through engagement with our history, the pleasant and the painful, that the young can become the shapers of its next course, and the Black and Jewish champions assembled today affirmed that the mantle being passed to the next generation has an unshakable foundation.”

Members In Attendance (33): Reps. Karen Bass (CA), Joyce Beatty (OH), Xavier Becerra (CA), Corrine Brown (FL), Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA), David N. Cicilline (RI), Steve Cohen (TN), John Conyers, Jr. (MI), Joseph Crowley (NY), Susan Davis (CA), Theodore Deutch (FL), Keith Ellison (MI), Eliot Engel (NY), Chaka Fattah (PA), Lois Frankel (FL), Al Green (TX), Steny Hoyer (MD), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Hank Johnson (GA), Robin Kelly (IL), Brenda Lawrence (MI), Barbara Lee (CA), Sander Levin (MI), Alan Lowenthal (CA), Nita Lowey (NY), Gregory W. Meeks (NY), Jerold Nadler (NY), Nancy Pelosi (CA), Charles Rangel (NY), Terri A. Sewell (AL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), and Frederica Wilson (FL).

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.