Hoping to ease tensions between blacks and Jews on campus, more than 60 students gathered in Houston Hall last Sunday night for a "Unity Dinner" between members of the Black Student League and Hillel. Participants said that Sunday's kosher dinner was a major step in overcoming sterotypes and misconceptions held by black and Jewish students about each other. And the students involved in the dinner did not shy away from difficult topics for the evening's discussion. College senior and Melville, New York resident Pam Sosne, helped plan the dinner, said discussion topics included the Nation of Islam and its effects on black-Jewish relations, Israel's effects on black-Jewish relations and media stereotypes. Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, outraged the Jewish community on campus with what it considered anti-Semitic assertions and sparked heated debate on campus in 1988 when he spoke at Irvine Auditorium. Wharton sophomore Martin Dias summed up his table's conversation regarding what he called the media's divisive role in black-Jewish relations on campus. "The media . . . won't show this wonderful dinner in the paper, but wait until Louis Farrakhan [arrives]," East Tauton, Massachusets resident, Dias said. Participants suggested that one way to overcome the division between the two communities is to better educate the public regarding the Jewish and black cultures. "If all you know about Jews is the . . . media's [version of ] Israel and if all you know about blacks is Sanford and Son and Good Times, you are misunderstanding," Dias said. The goal of the Unity Dinner was to define a foundation for a relationship between black and Jewish students on campus, explained planning committee member and College junior Deborah Gillman of New York City. "We wanted to establish a true relationship, so we're not just talking when there's something to fight about," Gillman said. Allison Rouse, BSL corresponding secretary and member of the Unity Dinner planning committee, said the fact that the dinner even took place was a testament to improved relations between blacks and Jews at the University. Rouse told the dinner participants that her best friend, who is president of the Kenyon College Hillel, called the idea of such a dinner at the University "a joke," adding that it "could never happen . . . the people would kill each other after dinner." But Rouse, a College sophomore from the Bronx, said the dinner and discussion proved that with communication, unity can be achieved. He closed the evening to a standing ovation, saying "this was a more successful attempt at diversity education than the one planned by the [administration]." The planning committee established for the dinner will meet again in January to initiate future black-Jewish gatherings, Sosne said.Comments powered by Disqus
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