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Youth / OPINION : Operation Unity --a Quest for Community

September 20, 1993| Compiled for The Times by Danielle Masterson

Operation Unity is a program that was formed with the strong backing of the entertainment community that brings Jewish and African-American youths together at churches and synagogues in Southern California to explore common ground. It was created by journalist Cookie Lommel after she visited Israel, where she witnessed the positive relations between Ethiopian Jews and Israelis.

JASON SHEPHARD

Member of Messiah Baptist Church, 17, Los Angeles

We're all human first. We're all the same color underneath. But I also feel like Jews and African-Americans are more alike than different. (Jews) went through the Holocaust. We went through slavery. We were killed on the plantations. They were killed in concentration camps.

A lot of white kids don't know how it is in South-Central. They think there are gangs on every corner. The media help to reinforce that stereotype. You always hear the news say, "Another bloody weekend in South-Central."

Before we can get along, we need more positive media attention for minorities and to more open forums like Project Unity.

AMANDA UNDERWOOD

Kol Tikvah Synagogue,

Woodland Hills, 16

My father is black and my mother is Jewish. I was already living what the program is trying to promote in terms of exploring our differences and searching for a common ground.

Jewish people have stereotypes of inner-city black people and black people have stereotypes of Jewish people. Most of the time these stereotypes aren't true.

The program is good because any time people deal with each other as an individual and not as a group they can see their stereotypes are wrong. They shed them.

APRIL TAYLOR-BROADOUS

Calvary Baptist Church, Pacoima, 15

At first I was very skeptical. We had heard a lot about how (badly) Jews and blacks got along. We got a better understanding from the program.

I learned not to stereotype all Jewish people. I felt more comfortable with them, even though we have different cultures and beliefs.

I can feel warm and welcome in a Jewish temple. The youth there had the same feelings. They were afraid of us, too. They feared that we would view them differently because of our race and religious beliefs. But we found out that we are all one. We can still get along.

ERIC LEONARD

Temple Beth Hillel, North Hollywood, 16

Because of my involvement in campus organizations dealing with multicultural groups, I didn't have any prejudice or preconceived notions about African-Americans.

(The Project Unity meetings) were more than just white kids and black kids arguing it out. These were intelligent kids who had a chance to speak freely instead of some of the token programs like at school. It was really something.

We realized we're a bunch of teen-agers growing up in a city with a lot of problems. We realized we face the same problems regardless of skin color or religion.

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