Hip-hop icons aren’t usually seen hanging out with rabbis.
But Russell Simmons and Rabbi Marc Schneier are more concerned with promoting racial tolerance and acceptance than setting trends.
“The partnership between Russell and I is…only going to grow,” Schneir said. ”[Our work together] speaks volumes in terms of our commitment and dedication to strengthening relations between African-Americans and Jews…”
Rabbi Schneier is president and founder of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a non-profit formed to unify communities across ethnic lines. He’s also authored a book, Shared Dreams, which details Jewish support for the Civil Rights Movement.
“There was no segment of American society that provided as much and as consistent support to Dr. King and the African-American community as did the Jewish [people],” Schneier said. “The history is there. The NAACP and the National Urban League were founded by a groups of African-Americans and Jews.”
Simmons and Schneir recently addressed a group of more than 30 high school students in New York City. The students were a part of Cultural Leadership, a St. Louis-based organization which encourages participants to effect positive change in their everyday lives.
”[Just seeing] Russell and I together speaks louder than words,” Rabbi Schneier said of the student’s visit. “I’ve received a number of great letters and cards from them which shows our time together was powerful.”
In addition to working with young students, Schneier’s foundation also puts out public service announcements.
Even Jay-Z is on board.
The platinum-selling rapper and Simmons can be seen on one of several foundation psa’s slamming down racism and anti-Semitism.
Simmons said his work with Schneier is part of his “responsibility” as a philanthropist and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That’s what you need people to focus on the giving, not the getting,” Simmons said. ”[For the students], you want to promote a freedom of the spirit to everyone. You want to everybody to achieve, not to have excuses not to achieve everything that they can imagine or dream for.”
Schneier and Simmon’s next task is taking on a global context.
They plan to do more work combating Islamophobia around the world.