This Monday morning from Chicago, where I am for a dedication to my parents a”h, I called my doctor’s office in Manhattan to fill a prescription. The message I received was that the doctor’s office is closed for a holiday. For a second, I had to think... What holiday is it? Oh, yes... it’s Juneteenth! It marks the day when the scourge of slavery was formally abolished.

Think about it. The two greatest presidents in the United States – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln – share a birthday celebration of sorts. Yet, Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr. has his own day set aside. Now we have a holiday to celebrate the abolition of slavery. It emerges then, that the African American community has two of its own federal holidays.

You would think that if America fought a civil war, if it abolished segregation via the courts, if it developed an Affirmative Action program to give Blacks an employment advantage, if it twice elected an African American President, if Black Lives Matter dominated the social agenda, then Black-White relations should be good.

Instead, we hear from Democrats, such as Joe Biden on down, that there is systematic racism in America. In fact, since Obama took office, all the polls show that race relations in America have become worse with time.

When African American Republican Senator Tim Scott announced his run for president, he proclaimed that although he suffered from racism a good part of his life, he has lived to successfully fulfill the American Dream. For that, he is lambasted by Barack Obama, as if to say, if you are a Republican, then you cannot be a successful African American. This is coming from a man who has one of the worst presidential records of helping the Black community.

It seems that the more politicians do to assuage the African American community with Band-Aid approaches to their problems, the worse things get. I am with Senator Scott all the way. (He and DeSantis are my favorite candidates.) Through hard work, family structure, and education can the African American community pull itself up the economic ladder – not with phony incentives to make for a good sales pitch.

Yesterday, on my flight to Chicago, I had the dubious distinction of having Reverend Jessie Jackson on board. My wife spotted him first, but I wasn’t sure it was him until one of the airport staff confirmed. He appeared very frail, was in a wheelchair, and was hardly able to talk to his aides – a shadow of the once powerful civil rights leader that he was. He was the founder of People United to Save Humanity (PUSH) and a serious contender for the presidency in the 1980s. Corporations and politicians feared him, as they needed his approval to continue operating without the threat of a boycott or protest.

Jackson became infamous for his labeling New York as Hymietown, in reference to the abundance of Jews in the city, during a radio interview in 1984. He received support from the blatant anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan at the time. At first, he denied making the remark, but then later owned up to it and halfheartedly walked those words back. He became a favorite target of many conservative talk show hosts, including Rush Limbaugh.

As I was sitting in the plane, many rows behind Jackson, I was wondering to myself, What would I say to him if I met up with him in the corridors of O’Hare?

Naturally, I would be respectful, if for no other reason than for his advanced age. I also recognize him for his great efforts on behalf of civil rights, much as I disagreed with his approach. Yet I still cannot get past his Hymietown remark.

He was given handicapped priority in deplaning, so I never did meet up with him. So, what would I have said to him?

I would have introduced myself as an Orthodox rabbi and then proceed to ask him if he ever regretted the Hymietown remark – especially because the Jewish people were the most supportive of the civil rights movement. I would have asked him if he felt he succeeded in his mission to combat racism. If yes, then why is racism on the rise in this country? I would have asked him if he thought President Reagan or any of the Republican presidents were worse for Blacks than the Democratic presidents. If so, how?

I would have concluded by saying that, as religious people, we must be forgiving and, as such, I can forgive him for his regrettable remark. I hope he now feels for the Jewish people and its State. Alas, that conversation will remain in my mind.

Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.