Jewish Journal


April 10, 2008

Anti-Semitism interrupts black frat event?


Below is the choicest nugget of an e-mail from Daphna Ziman, a respected Jewish philanthropist and political contributor in Los Angles, that has spread like a viral video during the past few days. It accuses a black leader, the Rev. Eric Lee, president and CEO of Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s L.A. office, of espousing some virulent anti-Semitism at a ceremony Friday night that honored Ziman for her work with foster children.

Lee emphatically denies saying what follows, but, like those rumors about Barack Obama that spread around the Internet a few months ago, Ziman’s missive has taken on a life of its own.

He began his speech by thanking Jesus for Obama, who is going to be the leader of the world. He continued by referring to other leaders Like Dr. King,being that this was the moment of celebrating Dr. King’s spirit on the anniversary of his assasination, and Malcolm X.

It was right after the mention of Malcolm X that he looked right at me and started talking about the African American children who are suffering because of the JEWS that have featured them as rapists and murderers.

He spoke of a Jewish Rabbi, and then corrected himself to say “What other kind of Rabbis are there, but JEWS”. He told how this Rabbi came to him to say that he would like to bring the AA community and the Jewish community together. ” NO, NO, NO,!!!!” he shouted into the crowd, we are not going to come together. “The Jews have made money on us in the music business and we are the entertainers, and they are economically enslaving us”

I received this Sunday morning and spent a good part of the past four days trying to figure out heads from tails. What I ended up with was a he-said, she-said atomic bomb of accusations.

Ziman left in tears during Lee’s speech. The guests who accompanied her, including two women who work for her and a friend, have corroborated her account.

“He said that the African-American community is not going to bridge any gaps because the Jewish community is responsible for the defamation of African Americans on the silver screen,” said Branka Gonzales, Children Uniting’s chief financial officer. “His feelings were that nothing is going to change until those things change, until the Jewish community stops its ways.”

“When the reverend got up, it almost felt like he was ... promoting Barack, and he said he is the only leader for where our country stands today,” said Chase Dreyfous, who is Episcopalian. “Then he went on a tangent to say the Jews are holding the African-American musicians captive, that they had portrayed their children as thieves and murderers. I don’t know if it was his intention or not, but for not being a Jewish person, I was extremely offended.”

Others in attendance - from a state assemblyman to a civil rights attorney to the event’s organizers, who invited Ziman - said they didn’t listen carefully enough to the speech to confirm or deny Ziman’s accusations.

“I vaguely remember hearing something about a conversation he had with a rabbi and dealing with the media,” said the evening’s emcee, Damon M. Brown, head of the Los Angeles alumni of Kappa Alpha Psi. “I don’t recall hearing anything that was offensive to me, and then again, I’m not Jewish so I don’t know if there are some sensitivities one would have.”

Curtis R. Silvers Jr., the head of the fraternity’s Western Province, which held the gala as part of its annual conference, also said he heard nothing offensive. He said there was no audio or video recording of the event and that, like Brown, he was preoccupied during Lee’s keynote and paid it only intermittent attention. Assemblyman Mike Davis, a Los Angeles Democrat who has been supported by Ziman and her husband, said the same.

“I speak for a living, and I learned a long time ago that when you speak about controversial issues you have to be really careful and sometimes, even the best of people, will make mistakes,” Davis said. “I can’t say I was tuned into what he was saying, but I do know people make errors.”

People are listening now.

The full text of the e-mail, and Lee’s characterization of what he said, can be found here.

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