We are excited to share that Dillard University hosted the inaugural Black and Jewish Unity Dinner, a two-hour event aimed at bringing together Black and Jewish students to build relationships, foster understanding, and ignite a passion for working together to create positive social change. 

The goals of the Unity Dinner are to ensure that student participants have a fun and energizing experience while also feeling inspired by the potential of solidarity and community. Through this event, students had the opportunity to meet peers from different communities and gained a deeper understanding of one another. The ultimate aim is for students to leave with a desire to continue building relationships and engaging in ongoing dialogue.

Student participants expressed excitement and hope for the discussions held throughout the dinner. 

  • “Being here at the Black Jewish Relations Unity Dinner is an enriching and empowering experience because I get to hear how other people experience the world,” Aarinii Parms-Green, Sophomore at Xavier University of Louisiana. 
  • “I’m excited and inspired to meet people from all different backgrounds to learn from each other and grow together. I’m also interested in talking together about injustices we see in the world,”Ella Taub, Sophomore at Tulane University.

The evening began with Rev. Herbert Brisbon welcoming everyone to Dillard University and expressing gratitude for their participation. The importance of staying present and connecting in person rather than being on cell phones was emphasized, setting the stage for genuine interactions.

Gary Brandt, Assistant Director of Tulane Hillel, expressed his appreciation to Rev. Brisbon and Dillard University for hosting the event. He highlighted the excitement of Tulane Hillel in being a part of this initiative. Brandt also introduced Dani Levine, the Director of Social Impact at Hillel International, who assisted with the evening’s event. In his remarks Brandt stated, “ We are with our partners in mission and are excited to bring conversations to our students in comfortable spaces. Over a meal our students have an opportunity to write the history of Black and Jewish relationships in New Orleans, move the needle on impact and build bridges.” 

Dr. John Eaves, Founder and National Director of the Black and Jewish Leaders of Tomorrow, spoke of his dual identity being both African-American and Jewish. He said, “The duality of my identity allows me to see the world in a very unique way”.

In her remarks, President Rochelle L. Ford discussed the history of Dillard’s participation in Black Jewish relations. “Together, we should lean into peace.Lean into love, grace and forgiveness. This is about people, not politics.”

Dillard University’s fourth president, Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook established the Dillard University National Conference on Black-Jewish Relations in 1989. In 1990, he established the National Center for Black-Jewish Relations, making it the only center of its kind globally.

Dr. Cook’s vision was twofold: to revitalize the Black-Jewish Coalition that played a vital role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and to broaden students’ understanding of race relations. Recognizing the significance of Dillard as a symbol of Black-Jewish relations, Dr. Cook honored Rosa Freeman Keller, a Dillard trustee and champion of racial equality in New Orleans, by dedicating the Avenue of the Oaks in her name.

Dr. Cook’s efforts were widely acclaimed, and he received recognition for his contributions. President Bill Clinton appointed him to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and he was presented with the Weiss Award by the National Conference of Christians and Jews for his international leadership. In 1999, Dr. Cook published “Black-Jewish Relations: Dillard University National Conference Papers 1989-1997,” a testament to the impactful discussions and ideas that emerged from the conference.

Dillard student and Student Government Association (SGA) Representative DeAndrew Thomas ’25  expressed his excitement to witness the relaunch of the Dillard University Center for Black Jewish Relations. “I’m really excited to be a part of a momentous moment for Dillard University and to represent the Student Government Association (SGA) for the re-establishment of the Center for Black Jewish Relations.”

Through these initiatives, Dillard University continues to serve as a beacon of awareness, fostering dialogue and understanding between Black and Jewish communities. Dr. Cook’s lasting legacy reflects his commitment to preparing students for a diverse and interconnected world. In January 2023, President Ford announced the relaunch of the Dillard University Center for Black Jewish Relations.

This event is just the beginning of a series of Unity Dinners that will be held on college campuses throughout the United States. The collaboration between the Black and Jewish Leaders of Tomorrow, the Anti-defamation League, the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, Hillel International, and the United Negro College Fund aims to organize Unity Dinners in 20 cities by the end of 2024, hosted at 20 colleges and universities.

Future Unity Dinners are set to occur at other institutions including Spelman College, Emory University, Howard University, Morgan State University and Gratz College. 

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