Shari Rogers directed the new documentary Shared Legacies: The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance. It transports the viewer to the Civil Rights era of the 1960s. During a time divided by deeply embedded racial segregation, Jewish leaders worked very closely with Dr. Martin Luther King on his mission for national hope and healing. History almost forgets that bigotry and discrimination brought together the African and Jewish American communities. And they stood together in unity in the fight for equality.
Shared Legacies is compelling and powerful. It does an excellent job pointing out the necessity of both groups joining forces in the battle for justice and the impact that they had on each other’s lives. We have heard the tragic horrors of the Jewish experience during the Holocaust before. But this may be one of the first times that we have heard how their experience ties in with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The African American community were supported by Jewish leaders (at their peril, by the way). And accordingly, the Jewish community was held up by Martin Luther King Jr. and his people. (Honestly, I was completely aware of the fact that Rabbi Joachim Prinz spoke at the rally immediately before Dr. King’s famed I Have a Dream speech).
Rogers’ film reveals the connections between the two movements. It highlights the stunning similarities between the experiences of those affected by slavery and the Holocaust and the scars that these tragedies left on their souls. As it unpacks history from a new perspective, Shared Legacies serves as a reminder that, yes, there are specificities within the Black or Jewish experience. But suffering unites people and that there is strength and healing that can begin by supporting one another.