Obama's Inauguration Revives Hopes for New Era of Jewish-black Relations

ADL calls inauguration of first African-American president a 'historic... milestone in the history of the nation.'

Even before Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, Jewish groups across the U.S. voiced hope that the historic event would bring about a new era in black-Jewish relations.

The Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday called Obama's inauguration as the first African-American president "historic" and "a milestone in the history of the nation."

"The inauguration of the nation's first African-American president is a true milestone in our history and it is, in one sense, a realization of the dream," the ADL said in a statement. "And yet the struggle to rise above hatred, prejudice and bigotry continues."

"We join with President Obama in his hopes that 'the old hatreds shall someday pass' and that America will play a role in ushering in a new era of peace," said the ADL.

Jewish activists were among those at the forefront of the civil rights movement last century and forged a deep relationship with the black community, yet ties between the two minority groups has wavered over the last decades amid American racial and social tensions.

Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish-American vote and stressed throughout his campaign that he wished to see a revival of the once strong alliance.

The president-elect asked Jewish groups to focus their Martin Luther King, Jr. Day commemorations - held a day before the inauguration - on black-Jewish dialogue and on the need for joint outreach to the poor.

Before the inauguration, the ADL praised Obama - who has strong ties with the Jewish community in Chicago - for his expressed desire to rejuvenate black-Jewish dialogue.

"When [ADL National Director] Abe [Foxman] met with Obama, Obama conveyed to him he would like to see the historic black-Jewish roots renewed," the group's national civil-rights director Deborah Lauter told the JTA last week.

"The numbers were so strong in terms of the Jewish vote for Obama," Lauter told the JTA, referring to the unexpectedly high Jewish vote. "There's a spirit of renewal, looking for opportunities to renew old ties and look forward generally."

Following Obama's win in November, Jewish leaders and community activists characterized the elections results as a kind of belated political benefit of the partnership between blacks and Jews in America.

"No other sector of American society provided a stronger and more consistent reservoir of support in the struggle of African-Americans than the Jewish community," Marc Schneier, an Orthodox rabbi who 20 years ago established the Foundation for Ethical Understanding, said after the elections.

"The historic partnership between the two communities is what led to the significant changes in the areas of equality and tolerance in American society, the results of which we saw Tuesday," he said.