Bill Tingling, founder of a Brooklyn-based literacy project that teaches public school students the fundamentals of journalism, was looking for a new way to discuss prejudice a few years ago.
Have the students — mostly from the minority community — interview Holocaust survivors, suggested an Irish friend of Tingling.
The result was Words of Bonds, a two-year-old initiative that has resulted in online interviews (www.wordsofbonds.com), speeches by survivors in public schools, an in-the-works documentary, and a kosher tribute dinner Sunday, Oct. 18, 6 p.m. at Madison Square Garden’s MSG Theater. Several Holocaust survivors and descendants of slaves, and educators, will be honored at the dinner, which Tingling says is probably the first-such interracial event under the auspices of an organization with roots in the black community.
One of the honorees will be Tal Brody, the former Israeli basketball star, who will be attending the New York Knicks-Maccabi Tel Aviv exhibition game in the Garden earlier that day.
“We’re bearing witness” to two communities’ experience with prejudice, says Tingling, who in 1995 established School News Nationwide (SSN), a nonprofit multimedia educational group. “If you don’t tell people about [the background of] the Holocaust and slavery, it’s going to repeat itself,” Tingling says. (For information:  753-9920; email@example.com.)
“Focusing on the preservation of stories from survivors of the Jewish Holocaust and accounts from the descendants of African American slaves, students will be able to examine the connections between these destructive events, as well as make links to currents events,” according to the organization’s mission statement.
Holocaust-denying statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad give the project greater urgency, he says.
Words of Bonds is not specifically designed to improve relations between the Black and Jewish communities, though that may be a side-effect, says Rev. Paul Chandler, a coordinator of the upcoming event who was active in the Project CURE dialogue group after the 1991 Crown Heights riots.
The project’s focus is the two groups’ accomplishments, not their victimhood, Tingling says.
“I’m not a victim,” says Sally Frishberg, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor who will be honored at the Words of Bond event. A resident of Flatbush, Brooklyn, she was among a dozen members of her extended family saved from the Shoah by a sympathetic Polish farmer. After liberation, she moved to the U.S., worked as a public school teacher, then became a docent at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and a speaker at local schools, telling how she rebuilt her life here. “I don’t think of myself as a victim,” she says.