The real story here shouldn’t be “how can someone be black and Jewish?” but, rather that Jews of color, especially black Jews, are only recently starting to gain media visibility — both in the United States and abroad.
We instantly think that every black we see is Christian. People look at you incredulously if you admit you are Roman Catholic or Jewish.
Here are a few quick facts:
- Estimates of the number of Black Jews in the United States range from 20,000 to 200,000.
- There are several predominately black synagogues in The United States, such as Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, whose current rabbi is a cousin in law of President Barack Obama.
- Rabbi Louise Elizabeth Dialey, , a black Jewish woman who grew up in an Orthodox baptist household, founded the Temple Beth’El congregation in 1951. For the last 60 years, the congregation has been overwhelmingly black, and in recent years, it has broken racial barriers by holding joint Sabbath services with predominantly white synagogues.
- Black Jews belong to each of the major AmericanJewish denominations—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform—and to the smaller movements as well. Like their white Jewish counterparts, there are also Black Jewish secularists and Black Jews who may rarely or never take part in religious practices.
- The Black Hebrew Israelites, or Black Hebrews, are groups of people of African Americans situated mostly in the United States who claim to be descendants of the ancient Israelites. They claim that they and many Africans, and blacks in places like Brazil, Madagascar, and the Caribbean are also descended from the Israelites.
Take a look below at a few celebrated African Americans who are proud of their Judaic Heritage.
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