June 21 is the 50th anniversary of the death of my cousin, Andrew Goodman. He was one of three young voting rights activist murdered by the KKK while trying to register blacks to vote in the summer of 1964.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time on this blog talking about significant Jewish figures in the arts and sciences. But I haven’t spent much time talking about Jewish activists. We have a long, strong history of activism. “Justice, Justice you Shall Pursue” is one of the most frequently spoken biblical passages I hear pass around by my fellow Jews. I’m not going to post a whole bunch of these posts in a quick burst like I did for music or movies. Instead, I’m going to simply try to post one article every now and then for people to soak in and appreciate.
For my fist selection I decided to choose Andrew Goodman, who was murdered by the KKK while registering Black voters during the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi along with fellow activists James Chaney and Michael Schwermer. Why? Because I see his Jewishness constantly erased in favor of his Whiteness. I think it’s important to emphasize the Jewish part of his identity. When you read this article, pay attention the number of Jewish figures that inspired Goodman. This is not by accident.
A common tactic of anti-semites is to judge us by the worst among us and to assimilate away the Jewishness of the best of us. This is going to be part of my ongoing efforts to counter-balance that tactic by highlighting Jews who made a difference.