It was then that meeting participants John Lewis – at the time an Atlanta City Councilman – and Cecil Alexander were asked to serve as co-chairs in the creation of the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition in support of the Voting Rights Act.
After the Act’s successful renewal and through the leadership of then-AJC Atlanta Director Sherry Frank, the group continued to meet in an official capacity as the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition. Since that time, the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition has existed to increase understanding of and interaction between Atlanta’s Black and Jewish communities and to serve as a mechanism whereby the communities can express their support of the other and respond with definitive action to critical issues as the need arises.
Over its 30-year history, the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition has done more to further relations between the respective communities than any other such program in the United States. In its early years, the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition met frequently at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center and became involved with King Week and the Center’s activities.
Topics addressed at meetings included Israel and the Middle East, South Africa, extremism and anti-Semitism, affirmative action, Blacks and Jews in business and politics, Black Americans and the Third World, Famine in Ethiopia, women’s issues in Nairobi, Soviet Jewry, youth bigotry in our cities and schools and political issues of the presidential elections. The Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition combined listening and learning, advocacy and action.
Over the decades, Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition members have together attended the theater, movies, ballet, symphony and many museums. Such visits were often followed by discussion and provided an added dimension of shared understanding to the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition’s experience.
In addition, a significant number of African-American leaders of the Coalition participated on AJC’s Project Interchange educational seminars in Israel.
While the times have changed, the commitment of the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition’s founders and leaders has never wavered. On Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. and with the sponsorship of American Jewish Committee Atlanta, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, The Temple and The Breman Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum, there will be a gathering to commemorate the Atlanta Black-Jewish Coalition’s 30th Anniversary.
To be held at the Breman Museum, the event will feature speakers including Congressman John Lewis and other founders of the Coalition. The Congressman will be signing copies of his new book, “Across that Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change.”
Editor’s note: Visit the Breman Museum’s website (thebreman.org) and click ‘Events & Programs’ for registration information.