It goes without saying that 2020/5780 will probably go down as one of the most unusual and challenging years of our lifetimes. There is much for us to have wrestled with, reckoned with, and grieved. We have lost so much – missed time and opportunities with those we love, missed celebrating smachot in person like britot, baby namings, b’nai mitzvah, weddings and chagim, and missed rituals that so often are woven into the fabric of our lives and our Judaism, like funerals and shivas – the lack of being able to physically comfort one another in our darkest hour has proven to be one of the cruelest parts of this pandemic. And all of that is on top of the extreme disruption to our lives as they once were – school, work, uncovered faces…it’s been a lot to absorb in the past few months.
In the Twin Cities, our grief and despair went beyond the coronavirus pandemic with the video seen around the world of four now-former Minneapolis Police Department officers killing (or at least complicit in killing) George Floyd. Many sleepless nights followed for Minnesotans and especially those in the immediate neighborhoods. Many businesses – including multi-generational businesses built and run by members of the Jewish community – were destroyed or at least damaged, Many stepped up to help in multiple ways.
And so much fear – about contracting a virus, about ‘getting back to normal,’ about kids going to camps and daycares and schools so parents could go back to work, about the survival of small businesses and neighborhoods, about where all the unrest and anger and frustration would lead, about what kinds of significant reforms would be required to really make change this time.
As we conclude Rosh Hashanah and enter the ten Days of Awe between now and Yom Kippur, TC Jewfolk presents a series that might make you uncomfortable – a Cheshbon HaNefesh (accounting of the soul) if you will. We invite you to wrestle with the ideas presented in this series – about the privileges the collective Jewish community benefited from and how we might now use that privilege in alleviating some of the fear and inequalities that exist today.
The Jewish history on Minneapolis’ Northside is something that is often romanticized but perhaps not often faced head-on. “There’s still this nostalgia in the Jewish community [in Minnesota] for the old North Minneapolis, ‘it was great, we were all in it together,’” says Dr. Kirsten Delegard, a historian at the University of Minnesota who co-founded the Mapping Prejudice Project, which tracks the history of covenants in Hennepin County.
“And I think a lot of African Americans are like, ‘but, wait a minute, you left when you could, and you actually benefited a lot from leaving,’” she said. “And there’s just been this ongoing inability to bridge those very different understandings of the history that continues to fester today.”
It is a complicated, complex, and challenging history with which we must all grapple, ESPECIALLY in this year when we feel so full of fear and when the world feels upside down.
It is undoubtedly an uncomfortable topic to tackle. It’s never easy to take a hard look at your past. And as Minneapolitans, the story is hardly unique to us. Detroiters, Chicagoans, Clevelanders of a certain age can tell you their own versions of these stories in the same era.
“There isn’t a willingness to engage in the conversation. To ask ourselves, ‘Okay, but why were Jews able to leave [city neighborhoods], and Black people weren’t,’” says Hannah Lebovits, a former member of the Cleveland Jewish community who is now a professor at the University of Texas-Arlington.
“Before you can reconcile, you have to reckon with the truth,” said Steven Belton, the President and CEO of the Twin Cities Urban League. “The first step is to acknowledge that there’s a difference of experience here.”
In Monday’s Who the Folk?!, we featured Kirsten Delegard of Mapping Prejudice, to give background and framing to some of these issues. Over the course of the next two weeks, we’ll feature pieces that give some history, as well as context around the protests of this past summer in how it relates to those of 1967, and where we go from here. And we talk to people in the community whose work tries to bridge some of the gaps and have the hard conversations that need to be had.
We expect there may be some unease in discussing these things. It’s an uneasy time. But learning about the past, understanding the present, and trying to create a more equitable future requires facing some uncomfortable truths. We invite you to join us in this Cheshbon HaNefesh.
I’m pretty sure you should learn a little more about the facts before you write an article that spews false information. You are blaming the Jews for leaving a crime ridden area where people were being murdered and raped? Why don’t you blame the rise in criminal activity and behavior which led to the Jews fleeing on the criminals who moved into the neighborhood, or the city that refused to provide police presence to discourage criminal behavior? This article reeks of blatant antisemitism – blaming the Jews for moving their families to safer locations. Shame on you and your agenda, especially as an organization meant to promote Judaism. You should be ashamed.
Please actually read and understand this article series. The Jewish community isn’t being accused of racism but we undoubtedly benefitted from a racist system. Near north didn’t go downhill because of your racist theories, it went downhill for a variety of systemic reasons that are driven by racism, including helping the Jewish community leave that neighborhood.
Your comment is exactly why this series is important.
As the economy sank for the white and black working class,beginning in the late ’60’s,Jews were able to use their traditional literacy and numeracy skills to make the transition to the post-industrial economy.Blacks were left behind. The resulting chaos in Harlem, Rochester,Mpls, Newark,Detroit, LA, etc.should not be surprising. Trade unions went into decline and neoliberalism triumphed.
Learn history. Edina and other suburbs refused to let the Jews in, so they lived in North Minneapolis. When the suburbs started opening up, they moved out, just like they did in all other cities in the US and Europe.
I appreciate TCJewfolk digging in to lead a discussion about this topic, and I look forward to reading the upcoming installments.
The series explains that, but also points out that after WWII, Black people were denied access to mortgages and housing programs that Jews were able to use to move to St. Louis Park and other suburbs where we were newly welcome. It’s not like Black people made a choice not to move to the suburbs, they were denied that opportunity by the racist assumptions of banks and federal loan guarantee programs. The way this history played out with this specific Jewish community is interesting and complicated! Check it out!