Uncom­fort­able Con­ver­sa­tions with a Jew

  • Review
By – April 22, 2024

Does the title of this book shock you? Does it make you uncom­fort­able? It should. 

In 2020, Emmanuel Acho — a sports ana­lyst, author, and for­mer NFL foot­ball play­er — released a dig­i­tal series called Uncom­fort­able Con­ver­sa­tions with a Black Man that dis­cussed racism and social injus­tice. He also pub­lished a book that year by the same name. The show has con­tin­ued, with Acho always tack­ling tough top­ics. And who bet­ter to talk with about hard things than Israeli activist Noa Tishby? 

Their first meet­ing to dis­cuss the book took place about fif­teen months before Octo­ber 7. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, after that, it became all too clear how nec­es­sary Uncom­fort­able Con­ver­sa­tions with a Jew was. 

The book is divid­ed into three dif­fer­ent sec­tions, fol­lowed by a con­clu­sion, a tran­script of the con­ver­sa­tion Acho and Tish­by had the week after Octo­ber 7, and appen­dices. In each sec­tion, there are mul­ti­ple top­ics, includ­ing ones like How This Book Hap­pened,” The Jew­ish … Race?”, The Math Ain’t Math­ing: Jews, Mon­ey, and Pow­er,” Octo­ber 8th,” The Z Word,” and Be a Men­sch: Show Up as an Ally.” 

The top­ic titles are meant to be provoca­tive. This is a book where all pre­tense is gone: Acho and Tish­by go there. Tish­by writes, It’s a no-judg­ment space to answer the ques­tions you’ve thought about but might have been too ner­vous to ask. It’s a real space for me to give uncen­sored answers. Because I don’t believe in safe spaces’; I believe in real spaces. In oth­er words — bring it on.” 

The book is set up as a con­ver­sa­tion, with ques­tions and answers lead­ing to dis­cus­sion. Both authors are hon­est about what they don’t know, assump­tions they’ve made and reac­tions they’ve had, and how the book almost didn’t hap­pen. In the sec­tion Soul Food Shab­bat,” they dis­cuss with dis­arm­ing can­dor the long his­to­ry of social jus­tice inter­ac­tions between the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty and the Black com­mu­ni­ty, as well as changes they’ve seen in the last few years. In anoth­er impor­tant sec­tion, The New Face of Anti­semitism,” Acho and Tish­by delve deep into anti-Zion­ism: its his­to­ry and its present, the BDS move­ment, and anti­semitism from the left, among oth­er things. 

This isn’t just a book for non-Jews; it’s for every­one. Jew­ish read­ers will iden­ti­fy with much of what Tish­by dis­cuss­es, and will like­ly find some com­fort in know­ing they aren’t alone. The book also pro­vides read­ers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn basic infor­ma­tion to refute anti­semitism and edu­cate oth­ers in every­day life. For non-Jew­ish read­ers, this is an acces­si­ble book that breaks down impor­tant top­ics in a way that includes rel­e­vant his­to­ry and infor­ma­tion, with­out judg­ment of what they might not yet know. Above all, it’s a book about hope — and Acho and Tish­by nev­er lose sight of that fact. 

Jaime Hern­don is a med­ical writer who also writes about par­ent­ing and pop cul­ture in her spare time. Her writ­ing can be seen on Kveller, Undark, Book Riot, and more. When she’s not work­ing or home­school­ing, she’s at work on an essay collection.

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