Hyman Bookbinder, the Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee, yesterday called on black and Jewish leaders to take action to correct "the damage and erosion" done to the historic relationship between their two communities during the political campaigns of 1984.
In remarks prepared for delivery at a Chicago forum on black-Jewish relations, Bookbinder said, "I see the need for the leaders in each community to speak out with courage and with frankness to each of their followers and say, 'Cut it out. Look at the facts. The blacks -- or the Jews -- are not your enemy.' "
Bookbinder cited surveys taken in recent years showing that the attitudes of blacks toward Jews -- especially young, educated blacks -- have deteriorated to the point that they are now for the first time "worse than the white . . . . And while the Jews still show less anti-black bigotry than non-Jewish whites, the differential is declining."
While rank-and-file attitudes between the two groups had become increasingly hostile over the years, he said, this trend was accelerated by controversies associated with the presidential candidacy of Jesse L. Jackson and statements made by Jackson supporter Louis Farrakhan.
"The tensions of 1984 have been costly. Many Jews remain angry over what they feel was inadequate repudiation" of statements made by Jackson and Farrakhan, he said. And many blacks "remain indignant over what they consider unwarranted Jewish rejection and condemnation of Jesse Jackson."
He acknowledged that the two groups are divided on several issues, such as quotas and the Palestinian question, but this is natural, he said, since each community is divided within itself on those issues.
"Responsible leadership" must help its followers put divisive issues into perspective and remind them of the concerns the two groups share -- "human rights, urban decay, education, poverty."