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Black Jews Rising

The AJC says the number is at 150,000 in the U.S. alone — and rising. The paper profiles a former evangelical couple who are making the conversion. “For a black male to put on a kipah and go wandering around in a predominately black community, you get the strangest looks,” said Pamela Harris.

Highland, where Pamela Harris works as the senior nonclerical staff member, at least eight of the roughly 20 people learning about Judaism with Rabbi Hillel Norry are black.
At the Marcus Jewish Community Center in Dunwoody, roughly 20 percent of the nearly two dozen people enrolled in Steven Chervin’s introduction to Judaism classes are black.
Although there are no sound statistics on the subject, anecdotal evidence suggests that, in the past 15 years, increasing numbers of black Americans are exploring Judaism, said Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco.
“Ten years ago, it was almost unheard of that a black person would come in and want to convert,” said Rabbi Ilan Feldman, who is working with the Harrises and two other black people pursuing conversion.

The numbers here seem a little large. I’ve been to dozens of synaogues in the last few years and I can count the number of black Jews I’ve seen on one hand. Am I missing something?

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posted June 24, 2008 at 8:11 am

Maybe the numbers seem large because it’s out of the ordinary and starting to come to more light and get more publicity.
From my perspective, the more, the merrier.
Rabbi Joshua Nelson once spoke at my synagogue. He was great and had no problem expressing his love of and pride in Judaism, as well as his amusement about how people perceived him.
It’s supposed to be about spirituality, not skin color.

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posted June 24, 2008 at 10:25 am

It always made sense to me that African-Americans identify with Judaism. After all, our religion was founded by slaves, freed after 400 years of servitude in a strange land.

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posted June 24, 2008 at 10:29 am

I go to a synagogue in Jersey City, N.J. where there are a number of black congregants. I think that it may depend on where synaogues are located. Many are in very white suburban areas while those in urban areas are more likely to get a real mix of congregants. I think it’s a good thing to have to have a real mixture and to have more people becoming Jews.

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posted June 24, 2008 at 12:38 pm

I am a fourth generation black Jew. We’ve been around for quite a while…

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posted June 24, 2008 at 3:22 pm

I have known one african american lady who did convert to judaism. I believe she has been very sincere because she has maintained being a jew for many years. I have seen her out having coffee with her Rabbi.
I know she as raising her daughter to be jewish.

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posted June 26, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Black Jews?!!!! Surely you jest! This can’t be true if America is just discovering this……
Everyone knows that Jesus was a Hollywood star with blue contacts and long flowing locks from using Ultress. I don’t see any resemblance to a Jew in Jesus. He’s White, I tell you!

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posted July 19, 2008 at 8:37 am

Rabbi Joshua Nelson once spoke at my synagogue. He was great and had no problem expressing his love of and pride in Judaism, as well as his amusement about how people perceived him.

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posted August 7, 2008 at 8:14 pm

As an African-American woman in her 40’s, who grew up in a predominantly African-American church going neighborhood, one would never suspect that by the age of four I was reading Hebrew and learned to read Hebrew before I learned to read English. All of my brothers and sisters followed this path. My parents, both African-American and from the South, raised all of us under the shadow of the Torah. No one converted to Judaism. My way of life is based on a rich oral tradition whispered in any number of groves and fields in the South. At one point as a kid, the other kids on our block, knew that we could not go outside to play on Shabbat and they would wait until after they heard my father recite the Havdalah and the Ma’ariv before coming to asking if we could play. My father passed away seven years ago, and it wasn’t until at his funeral services that I realized the impact we may have had on our neighbors and friends, when they joined all our family in singing the Shema, in my father’s memory. None of these people are Jewish and did not attend services, except what they heard coming from our house.
All of this is a long way to say that there are many black Jews here in America. Like me, many of them know nothing else. Also, like me,
our story, challenges and path through history differ a little from mainstream or Euroethnic Jews here in America or abroad. Nevertheless, it is rich and is a source of pride.
I am glad to see that there is a promise for Jews of all ethnicities to come together and rejoice before the L-rd with all our similarities and embracing our differences.

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Tam Flowers

posted September 17, 2008 at 8:56 pm

I received my mtDNA analysis last year. If what they say is true, I’m a Jew. . . a descendant of a female Black African Jewish Slave who was forced into the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Do I want to convert to Judaism? Why should I convert to being something that I already am? I don’t know anything about Judaism, but would be open to finding out under the right circumstances. I went back to my home town, armed with the scientific evidence that we were actually African American Jews Without Clues. The information was not very well received. Since “everybody knows that there are no African American Black Jews!” Oh Brother! As if being Black wasn’t complicated enough. I’m sure that our family is not the only one. Do you think that the White Jews will reach out to us to teach us what beaten out of our slave forefathers in this country long ago? It’s not like we would have anything other than the blood that runs through our veins to prove that we are who/what we say we are.

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posted October 18, 2008 at 5:21 pm

I am a African American Jew who also raise my children as being a Jew. I don’t know why it is such a amazement to the Europeon Jew that there are black Jews if they do their history and read Deuteronomy 28th chpt. They are preserving our heritage for our curse of disobeying Hashem and now we are coming back for it basically. It seems that African Americans don’t have a problem with Europeon Jews but Europeon Jews have a problem with us. They can’t believe that we can be Black and Jewish and why not? I celebrate the high holy days just as they do, and when the sabbath comes around I praise Hashem as they do. Just because I am Black does not mean that I am a Ethiopian Jew also. I feel that I don’t have to get conversion papers to prove that I am Jewish to anyone. Being Jewish is a way of life and how you feel in your heart. Hashem told me that I was doing the right thing and that is all I need! Idon’t feel I have to prove my beliefs to anyone especially on a piece of paper just to be excepted by others. I am a Jew and will always be a Jew ans so will my children.

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posted October 24, 2008 at 1:51 am

You probably would have to convert to Judaism formally – reason being, while you may very well carry Jewish DNA, because of slavery and the fact that families were split apart, you may have and probably do have a non-Jewish ancestor, on the mother’s side – and Judaism flows from the mother.
Rabbis for example have ruled that Crypto Jews (Jews from Spain and Portugal who nominally converted to Catholicism to escape persecution but continued with some Jewish practices) have to formally convert for this same reason.
I would hope so – have you considered contacting a synagogue, rabbi, etc.?

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posted December 2, 2008 at 11:12 pm

Yes, the Blacks are being awaken, here is another website of black history.

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posted January 9, 2009 at 1:07 am

authenticjews is not a jewish site. That is a Messianic site. Those who are jewish do not believe that Jesus or Yeshua is the messiah. This is a Christian site posing as a jewish one.

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posted January 13, 2009 at 1:16 am

Why do you permit lies to be posted on your page? We are not Christians, and it is utterly insulting for one to make such accusations.

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Jason North

posted March 4, 2009 at 12:54 pm

I’m a little confused. This article seems to be written from an Ashkenazic perspective? There are Ethiopian Jews in Israel (a category that doesn’t fit so neatly into the Ashkenazic/Sephardic distinction). The three great waves of migration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel happened with Operation Moses, Solomon and Elijah. I’ve read about some of the cultural clashes Ethiopian Jews face in Israel, since the majority speak Amharic, not Hebrew….

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posted March 22, 2009 at 4:49 pm

concerning theMt DNa.. she should not have to convert speaking from a purely scientific perspective. Mt-DNA is from the woman passed down from woman to woman to woman virtually unchanged in some aspects. this is the most authentic of tracer anyone can get to prove their lineage.
it s so funny that the ashkenazim are the ones trying to call the shots and say who is and who is not jewish. even the first known jew Abraham .. was a convert in essence. so where the ashkenazim. to become a jew is adopting a way of life and set of beliefs different from your neighbors, taking on the yoke of heaven being a light onto the world. etc etc etc
. I come from a long line of jewish people as far as we know more than 11 generations. some are still observant some have converted to catholicism, seventh day adventist, and other from of christian worship because society deemed that they should be christians as they could not possibly be jews.
according to halacha i am jewish and surprise BLACK. black and Jewish should not be regarded as mutually exclusive but mutually inclusive very possible and taken upon seriously.
. do not fool yourselves ashkenazim your Jewish ancestors were not white they were on the opposite end.. and definitely a different hue than what the world / society has been told what jews are supposed to look like all together.

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