CLE Takes the Initiative Works to Strengthen Relations Among Africans, Americans, and Jews

While national concerns about antisemitism have been making news, Jewish community leader Matt Fieldman in northeast Ohio created the Rekindle Fellowship to strengthen ties between African American and Jewish communities.

Fieldman told that he is looking at the big picture by helping to develop the Rekindle Fellowship, despite the antisemitic episodes involving Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving and entertainment sensation Kayne West being unfortunate.

A public apology

After the Brooklyn Nets suspended Irving for at least five games without pay on November 4 for a social media post he made regarding a book and movie with anti-Jewish undertones, Irving delivered a public apology the following day. Adidas severed ties with Kanye West the month prior following the rapper’s antiseptic comments.

According to Fieldman, the Rekindle Fellowship is an effort to bridge the gap between Cleveland’s Jewish and African American communities. I’m sorry that Irving’s suspension was necessary for him to apologize, but it’s good to see that he did so now, Fieldman added.

“But it’s great to see that he’s realized that he made a mistake; acknowledging guilt is the first step toward reform,” she said. Fieldman, too, saw a concern with the steadily increasing numbers. Everywhere you go, racism and antisemitism are on the rise, and that includes minority communities. Therefore, Fieldman affirmed, “this is out there, and it is truly something we have to face as a nation.”

However, establishing relationships in the neighborhood is the first step toward solving the issue. More communication and friendships between the two communities will result through Rekindle. He said, “They’re almost next-door neighbors, but they don’t collaborate all that much.”

A ‘breakfast meeting’ can make wonders

On October 31, Rekindle held a breakfast meeting to explore policing reform in Cleveland and ways to enhance the justice system in northeast Ohio. Jamil Sanders, a recent Rekindle alum, thinks the program is already helping to improve relations between the Black and Jewish communities in his area.

Sanders said that despite the region’s “strong footprint” in northeast Ohio, “there is not a lot of engagement.” To not discuss how we have common ground and how we might work together is inexcusable. We have to lower the communication threshold and realize we’re in a protected environment.

Fieldman announced that on December 17, the Rekindle Fellowship would organize a performance at Cleveland’s Grog Shop featuring the music of Orthodox Jewish rapper Nissim Black. According to Fieldman, the Rekindle Fellowship has a low barrier to entry for people of color and Jews.

Fieldman explained that there would be 12 hours spent together during the program’s three meetings, each of which would last for four hours. We form teams to take on concrete improvements to the city of Cleveland.

Sanders, meanwhile, told News 5 that several other U.S. cities are evaluating the program; he sees this as further evidence that Cleveland serves as a model for the rest of the country. Sanders argued that people too often focus on how they differ from one another rather than how they are similar. We need to identify the shared ground and familiar threads.

We all want to see America succeed, and this program has the potential to make a massive difference in towns around the country.

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