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Solidarity, not competition

As fellow Jews, we want to vehemently rebut Clifford Rieders’ recent op-ed about reparations.

His claim that American Jews are as deserving as Black Americans of financial compensation for past injustices (based on the underpayment of one Revolutionary hero?) indicates a misunderstanding of the entire concept of reparations.

Reparations to the descendants of slaves have been suggested as a solution to reduce current economic inequalities. According to a 2019 survey by the Federal Reserve, the median wealth of a white family in the United States is $188,200, while for Black families it is $24,100. This inequality is a clear result of Black Americans’ ancestors being treated as property, rather than property owners, followed by more than 100 years of systematic racism.

It’s true that Jewish Americans have also been discriminated against in recent American history, but the examples Mr. Rieders cites — exclusion from country clubs and Ivy League schools — are hardly equivalent to being lynched or shot by the police, fates that disproportionately befell Black Americans in the same time period.

His article tries even to mitigate the horrors of slavery, describing its victims as those “who served in the American South” and placing the blame for the system on “African tribes” and “Muslim suppliers.” It’s not hard to imagine how offended Mr. Rieders would be if an article similarly downplayed the Holocaust and tried to shift the blame for its atrocities.

Attributing American slavery to wars between African tribes is like suggesting Jews were responsible for their own genocide because some of them collaborated with the Nazis.

He argues that reparations to the American Jewish community would make it “realize its own important heritage and ties to traditional values.” Black Americans aren’t looking for reparations to “realize their heritage” of slavery — they face it every day in higher poverty rates, worse schools, and less access to health care, among many other disparities.

Based on the traditional values that our Jewish elders taught us, we think it’s right to try to fix those inequalities, standing with the oppressed by supporting reparations and other solutions. We are dismayed that Mr. Rieders instead chose to continue the sad history of pointless conflict between Jewish and Black Americans.

STACEY AND JESSE BUTTERFIELD

Williamsport

Submitted via Virtual Newsroom

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