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Julian Bond, 1940-2015

The legacy of Julian Bond will rightfully focus on his life’s work in civil rights. From his student years literally until his death last week at 75, he was one of the movement’s most stalwart and intrepid figures, as consistent in his moral clarity as he was determined in working toward his objective.

That objective — one sadly still not fully realized in 2015 — was equal rights for African Americans. As a member of the younger side of the generation led by such titans as Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin and Ralph Abernathy, Bond was an effective, hands-on activist. His work as a Georgia state legislator and later as NAACP board chairman was characterized by his energy, his vision, his strategic and political acumen and, most important, his rare ability to articulate the ideas he wanted to advance.

Remarkably, considering the often confrontational nature of his cause, Bond remained a gentleman through it all. His intelligence, gentleness and persuasive skill were crucial to the many successes he achieved, integral components to the fact that he was a man who consistently got things done.

Far less known than his work in civil rights, Bond was also a reliable friend to American Jewry.

Rabbi David Saperstein, who currently serves as ambassador for international religious freedom for the State Department, this week described Bond as a colleague and friend.

“I was struck not only by his brilliance but by his utter unflappability,” the rabbi said. “Cool, composed and concise, he could convey moral outrage without ever raising his voice.”

In his own words, Bond did an even better job describing the often tense but ultimately resilient relationship between American blacks and Jews.

“Anti-Semitism, like racism, may always be with us,” he wrote in the introduction to the 1999 book Strangers & Neighbors: Relations Between Blacks & Jews in the United States. “It ought to be our responsibility to recognize it when we see it, to oppose it and to dedicate ourselves to ending it . . .

“The coalition between blacks and Jews helped make the American promise real. Strengthened, that coalition can finish what it helped begin, and in the process, revive the spirit that brought black and white, Jew and Gentile, together in common cause. We can, and shall, overcome.”

Thank you, Mr. Bond. And rest in peace.

Copyright © 2015 by the Intermountain Jewish News


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