Black and Jewish; Love for IFF

The Washington Jewish Week has a lovely article about black Jews in the Washington, D.C. area. It shares anecdotes from a series of black Jews, most of whom are converts. Like the terrific piece we published this summer, Waiting Outside the Promised Land, by Lesley Williams, the article illustrates the subtle racism that black Jews sometimes encounter at synagogues.

Entering a synagogue can sometimes lead to questions such as “Are you lost?” or directions to the church across the street, says [Shelliyah] Iyomahan, the daughter of parents from Trinidad and Tobago. She was raised as a Sabbatarian one who worships the Sabbath on Saturday before discovering she was halachically Jewish.


Black Jews can also face some discrimination from other people of color. Ronni Davis, of Silver Spring, says that at a previous job, other African-Americans didn’t socialize with him after learning about his conversion.

One of the interesting and lesser-known aspects of black Jewish life is that many of the black Jews come from similar backgrounds as the Conversos. Several people interviewed for the story share how their non-Jewish families still had some Jewish traditions. One family burnt chametz every year during spring cleaning; another grew up celebrating Saturday as the Sabbath. For more on black Jews and relationships between African-Americans and Jews, see our issue on Multicultural Relationships from this summer.

In other news, Julie Wiener of The (New York) Jewish Week did a wonderful article on InterfaithFamily.com’s fifth anniversary and 200th issue, which serves as a nice companion piece to our most recent issue.

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