Historically Black Dillard University in New Orleans has announced plans to relaunch the National Center for Black-Jewish Relations on campus. The center was initially founded by Samuel DuBois Cook, the university’s fourth president.
Under the leadership of Dr. Cook, from 1989 until 1997, the National Center for Black-Jewish Relations hosted national conferences and produced the book, Black-Jewish Relations: Dillard University Conference Papers (Providence House, 1999) which Dr. Cook edited. A classmate and friend of Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Cook was greatly influenced in 1949 by his Jewish professor and mentor at The Ohio State University. He was on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and was presented the Alfred W. and Genevieve Weil Medallion Award by the Jewish Chautauqua Society for his efforts in building more harmonious relationships between the Black and Jewish communities.
The reinvigorated center will continue the work of the initial center which aimed to reduce hostilities that were emerging between members of the African American and Jewish communities, but it also will have action projects that build upon the conversations and relationships formed through the Center’s programs.
“Possibly worse than in the 1980s, when Dillard established the National Center for Black-Jewish Relations, America is polarized, with a growing distrust and hostility toward each other in the Black and Jewish communities,” said Rochelle Ford, the current president of Dillard University. “Often the conflict is a result of a lack of knowledge, appreciation, and understanding of the alliances of the Black and Jewish communities during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, as well as the shared history of genocide and social experiences. Instead of letting differences separate our communities, Dillard wants to reestablish bonds through conversations, education, and learning that result most importantly in courageous actions to improve our society.”