Dialogue opens conversation on white privilege

Hana Barkowitz

The Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion partnered with Hillel to present the Black-Jew Dialogues, a multicultural comedy, which resulted in discussions regarding the authenticity of white privilege and the similarities in struggles between oppressed minorities.

The two-man show, written and performed by Emmy-winning performer Ron Jones, was created with the intention of opening up healthy discussion about race, religion, and stereotypes involving the two.

The occasionally uncomfortable performance began with a warning from the two performers, who explained that parts of the show were meant to be comedic, and that it was okay to laugh, and parts of the show were meant to be serious and insightful, and that it was okay to ponder.

The second actor, Jeff Marcus, says the whole point of the Dialogues is to get students to simply “listen”.

“This is the age that you can talk to everyone and know everyone, because as a student, you are around more people. It is important to know that your fellow classmates are people that you can see and interact and learn from. You can grow and change. You can help them, and they can help you.”

At one point during the performance, the actors played an interactive game with the audience called “Jew or Not Jew”, where they would display a picture of a celebrity on the screen and ask, “is this person a Jew, or not?” Every participating audience member received a prize for winning.

Many times throughout the performance, the actors would comment on a stereotype or a common misconception and rationalize it with a shared similarity between cultures and practices. They compared reasons of migration for African Americans and Jews and they also compared how both cultures are very food and family oriented. The actors demonstrated this by dressing up as grandmas from each respective culture and improvising a conversation between the characters.

Adam Hirsch, Assistant Director of Hillel and the reason the Dialogues were brought to campus, thinks it’s important for every student to experience a presentation like this.

“We want the campus to experience a lot of the fundamentals of what Judaism really is, which is humanism and globalism. We want the campus to recognize all the similarities we have within all the cultures, races, religions, and to experience it through comedy.”

The discussion following the performance was that of intense conversation involving racism and anti-semitism, with one brief heated argument breaking out between audience members regarding the realism of white privilege.  

Sophomore hospitality and tourism management major Liam Reis said he learned a fair amount following the program.

“I learned that sometimes being chased is just as bad as being dragged. Don’t compete for who has the worst tragedy.”