In the summer of 1964, the disappearance and murder of three young civil rights activists in rural Mississippi shocked the country. The boys were volunteers with the Freedom Summer Project. One was James Chaney, a local African-American from Mississippi, and the other two were Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, middle-class Jewish boys from New York. Their story is told in the Kar-Ben chapter book Hot Pursuit: Murder in Mississippi, available in ebook.
That summer, young people from all over the country volunteered to go to Mississippi. A high proportion of them were Jewish. American Jews were disproportionately represented in the front lines of the civil rights movement, generally. The same can be said about South African Jews in the anti-apartheid movement.
It has been a topic of academic discussion as to why Jews have so often become involved in the fight against racism. The answer may be that when one fights for the rights of others, we are also fighting for our own. When White supremacy rears its ugly head, the Black and Jewish communities are both often targeted, along with other minority groups.
Albert Einstein was an individual who recognized that what human beings have in common is more powerful than the forces that separate us. Marian Anderson had overcome discrimination to become a famous singer. The African-American woman and the German Jew became good friends over a shared love of music. Read their story in The Singer and the Scientist.
The death of Michael Schwerner in 1964 affected former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich deeply. As children, said Reich, “Mickey” had protected him from bullies. The incident inspired Reich "to protect the powerless, to make sure that the people without a voice have a voice."We are stronger when we work together to fight hatred.