Where Are The Jews of Wakanda?


This article originally appeared in Tablet Magazine.

Since the Hollywood premiere of Marvel Studio’s latest superhero flick, Black Panther, the interwebs have been all atwitter with buzz and anticipation for its opening this Friday.

Of course, over in the African-American community we’ve been electrified since the first trailer dropped back in October. And why not? Debuting in Fantastic Four #52 (July 1966), T’Challa—otherwise known as the Black Panther—was the first superhero of African descent in mainstream American comics, hailing from the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda. An isolationist country, Wakanda was the most technologically advanced nation on the planet, and home to vibranium, a rare, naturally occurring meteoric ore with energy-manipulating qualities, which not only made Wakanda one of the most economically stable nations on the planet, but was also responsible for the creation of Captain America’s famously unyielding shield.

With a resume like that, it’s no wonder why the past few months have been filled with thinkpieces full of hope surrounding a restructuring of the cinematic and social perception of Africa and its descended peoples, joy around the watershed moment of the arrival of African sci-fi and fantasy, known as “Afro-futurism,” into the mainstream, and just the general ecstasy of #blackpeoplemagic. (Also, damn, Angela Basset. Can you age maybe just one day? That’s it. Just one. Kthx.)

As a fanboy myself, from the days before being a “blerd” was cool, I’m just as ecstatic as everyone else is to finally see Wakanda in all its onscreen glory. Yet, simultaneously, I find myself feeling conversely to how I often do in American Jewish spaces. In this African-American cultural moment, where am I? Where’s the rest of me? What space do Jews have in Afro-futurism? Or, more specifically: Where are Wakanda’s Jews?

Bear with me, it’s not as far-fetched as it seems.

Wakanda, after all, has never been enslaved or colonized, so it makes sense why the standard fare of Christianity and Islam don’t exist there, since both their presences in Africa are largely by-products of conquest. But where are my Jews at?

Wakanda is apocryphally located somewhere in Northeastern Africa, so it’s already close to a well-known population of Jews, the Ethiopian Beta Israel. In the same general area are the Yibir in Somalia, who have a tradition of being Jews before they were converted to Islam. To west there were the Jews of the Bilad al-Sudan—with records attesting to their presence in the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires—and the community of Zuwa Alyaman of Koukiya by the Niger River—according to local legend, Zuwa was a member of one of the Jewish communities transported from Yemen by Abyssinians into northeast Africa. Finally, to the south lies Zimbabwe, home to the Lemba of Cohen Model Haplogroup fame.

So, theoretically bounded by Jews on all sides, nobody managed to pass through or stop in Wakanda? The villainous Klaw family made it to Wakanda three times over the course of two generations. And they were actively hostile. A group of nomadic people with weird food preferences couldn’t have wandered in under the radar unnoticed and just hung out? Hell, Flavius Scollo, a soldier for Emperor Caligula, built the Black Tower of M’Kumbe as an outpost and just hung out there for nearly two thousand years until Black Panther and the Fantastic Four discovered him in the then modern-day of 1982 (Fantastic Four #241, April 1982). And he’d been spending all those centuries capturing Wakandans from the surrounding area to be his subjects.

Two thousand year-old Roman legionnaires encased head-to-toe in golden armor from an alien ship that imbues them with longevity and telekinetic manipulation of their surroundings? Sounds legit.

African Jews in an African kingdom? Whoa, there buddy.

(Although, it should be tangentially noted that Kevin “Kaspar” Cole, temporary bearer of the Black Panther moniker in New York, and current White Tiger—despite Marvel’s strong Jewish representation from the secular Marc Spector (Moon Knight) to the possibly Reform Ben Grimm (The Thing) to Orthodox yeshiva student Naftali, friend of Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel)—is the sole mainstream comicbook character who is a Jew of Color. Cole’s mother is white and Jewish, and his father is an African-American Christian. We still haven’t moved past the cliché of Jews of Color necessarily being products of intermarriage, adoption, or conversion, but hey, it’s a start.)

However, in all seriousness, just as much as it’s important for Jews of Color to have a voice at the American Jewish table, it’s equally as crucial that we are present and counted in the fictional future of “blackness,” even if it’s just a comic book story about Jews in some secret kingdom hidden away from sight with superior magic and technology, virtually inaccessible to the rest of civilization.

Wait…Jews. Hidden kingdom. Superior magic and technology. Inaccessible to civilization…sounds like…Sambatyon?

Holy crap, guys, what if the Wakandans are the Jews of Wakanda?

Guess Who’s Back?

Hey, fam, I’m MaNishtana! It’s been awhile, I know.

I promise to try to blog slightly more frequently than I have in the past half a year or so since my last blog.

Here’s hoping.

[Star-of-Davids fingers]

In the meantime, it’s not like I haven’t been writing at all. Check me out over at either JN Magazine or Tablet Magazine.


This might ramble on a bit, and/or seem a little bit outdated, but just hear me out. There’s a point:

We just finished celebrating Sukkot, the tail end of the Chagapalooza that began over a month ago with Rosh Hashana.

But have you ever wondered why is Sukkot called “chag simchatenu (the season of our joy)”?

Seems a little weird. After all, “chag cherutenu (the season of our freedom)” makes sense for Pesach.

“Chag matan toratenu (the season of the giving of the Torah)” makes sense for Shavuot.

But what about Sukkot should make it “chag simchatenu”? Furthermore, if the holiday is commemorating the Ananei Hakavod/Clouds of Glory (as per Sukka 11b), then shouldn’t Sukkot be celebrated right after Pesach?

The Vilna Gaon comments on this by answering that after the sin of the Golden Calf, the Clouds of Glory left. They didn’t return until the construction of the Mishkan/Tabernacle–five days after Moshe scored atonement for the Jews on Yom Kipur–on the 15th of Tishrei. This is not only why Sukkot is celebrated after Yom Kippur on the 15 of Tishrei, but also why it’s “chag simchatenu”. It’s a celebration of the joy of not only the Clouds returning, but also of the Jews realizing they were back in Gd’s favor.

Teshuva/repentance is funny that way. Rabbenu Yona writes that a person might pray for teshuva, and receive forgiveness, but all that forgiveness might potentially mean is that the person will receive no punishment. It DOESNT mean that person has found favor or that Gd wants to hear any prayers from him. When Gd provides someone with the opportunity to do a mitzva, THAT’S when the person knows that they are back in favor.

Likewise, Sukka 28b compares rain during Sukkot to a curse, akin to the scenario of a servant pouring a drink for his master, but the master throws it back in his face. Similarly, if we aren’t being allowed to do the mitzvah of Sukkot, it means Hashem isn’t happy with us and doesn’t desire our prayers.

Not only is that relevant this year, as for more than half of the holiday–at least here in America–rain kept many of us out of the sukka, with other people even being forced to take their sukka down because of concerns of hurricane winds. Many who didn’t disassemble their sukkah on their one found that the weather did it for them.

Perhaps, not coincidentally, the latest rash of stabbings in Israel also sprang up during this time.

And let’s not overlook a very concerning piece of the picture. Erev sukkot featured not only a supermoon, but a blood moon, AND a lunar eclipse.

The Talmud, interestingly enough in Sukka once again (29a), relates that a lunar eclipse is a terrible omen for the Jewish people, once again a symbol of divine displeasure, additionally adding that “if its face is red as blood, it is a sign that the sword is coming to the world” (which, as a sidenote, seems pretty likely if several hundred stressed out, terrified Israelis are being urged to walk around Jerusalem wearing guns, not to mention deranged individuals with penchants for driving cars into crowds of people and axing whoever they missed).

The tractate in Sukka ends on a positive[ish] note though, saying “However, when the Jews do the will of the Omnipresent they need not worry about all these omens.”

Now, I’m not claiming to have a guy on the inside upstairs, but it seems fairly reasonable to assume that we just might not be in such good graces right about now. We need to rally together for some good old fashioned achdut/unity. And unfortunately Israel is not the focal point for that, let’s be honest. More often than not, it only serves to expose the schism amongst Jews across every strata of observance, even amongst people on the same side of the issue.

But one thing I’ve noticed that does not do this (or at least to an exponentially less extent) are group Jew activities, particularly ones involving Shabbat, which I find particularly significant as Shabbat has been the centerpiece of Jewish life since the infancy of our nation, even to the point of being considered equal to all the other commandments (Chulin 5a).

And “coincidentally” enough, October 23/24, Shabbat Lech Lecha, when all Jews everywhere can ACTUALLY agree that Avraham was promised the land of Israel, is Project Inspire’s very awesome Shabbos Project.

IMO, I feel like we should all pull out all the stops to host, our friends, our family, people who identify, people who don’t anymore, of whatever observance level, just host.

If we want some tide turning–and we do need some tide turning–this is a pretty sweet shot.

Let’s do it.


Hey guys, I’m MaNishtana, and today’s Rosh Chodesh Shvat.

You know what that means.

That means that Nisan is only two months away.

And THAT means that Pesach is only nine weeks away.

Which means that we’re only nine weeks away from…



Yep, I suppose it was only a matter of time before a guy named “MaNishtana” came out with a Hagadah, right?

Welcome to my newest magnum opus. An illustrated, transliterated, translated tome with some classic commentary (by some old Rabbi dudes), some original commentary (from moi), and a collection of Seder traditions from all over the world. (Did you know that the Jews of Gibraltar ACTUALLY put ground up brick dust into their charoset?)

It’ll be classy, and not at all like my usual style you may be used to (unless you read those couple chapters in Thoughts From A Unicorn). And–intentionally crafted to be open and accessible to all levels of observance and knowledge–this may not be the Hagadah you need, but it’s the Hagadah you deserve.

Available, IY”H, the week of March 15th. Check out a couple other pages below.

Keep you posted ;-).


Well, hello there

Hi, I’m MaNishtana.

And you probably got here from http://www.manishtana.net.

Or http://www.manishtanasmusings.com

…Or http://www.manishtana.wordpress.com

So confusing, I know. So that’s why I decided to consolidate very single place I’ve ever blogged right here at my original ORIGINAL WordPress blog. Also, it was driving my SEO crazy.

I’m compiling the best of each site into this version, so just bear with me for a week or so. In the meantime, you have access to every single blog I’ve ever written, ever. Enjoy your stay.

Also, “Hey” to all those folk who started following this blog about five years ago and are now kinda weirded out that they’re getting notification emails again. I’m back on the grid.

Never Again

Hi, I’m MaNishtana, and not a week ago a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson on any charges in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Tonight, a grand jury has decided the same for Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner.

And I have someting to say about that.

Obey the law, you say. And you kill us when we do. Obey the police, you say. And you kill is when we do. Record police encounters, you say. And you kill us when we do. We even stay inside our homes, and you come in and kill us when we do.

Do you really think Black America is going to just sit around while you figure out the next place you can kill us? If you do, then you’re dead wrong.

This isn’t 1930’s Nazi Germany, and we aren’t the German Jews.

We aren’t going to sit silently hoping things will get better and thinking they can’t get any worse, slowly descending into your solution of The Black Question all the way into whatever ovens you’re planning on building.

Because we’ve been here already, America, and you can’t fool us.

We’ve been here for 400 years and watched you LEGALLY enslave us, and LEGALLY segregate us, and LEGALLY give us substandard conditions, and LEGALLY kill us. And. You. Haven’t. Stopped.

So don’t tell us about what “LEGALITIES” we should’ve abided by to not end up dead. Because when you’re the right skin color, you can murder theaters full of movie-watchers, murder schools full of children, riot because your sports team won, riots because your sports team lost, riot over some damn PUMPKINS, and still make it all the way to trial with nary a scratch.

You don’t like Black riots? You don’t like Black protests? They’re inconvenient for you? They really mess up your day plans?

WE don’t like burying grooms the day before their wedding. WE don’t like burying teens before they can reach college. WE don’t like burying teens before they can reach HIGH SCHOOL. WE don’t like burying people for walking down their OWN hallways. WE don’t like burying people for eating their favorite candy bar.

You’re on a ticking clock, Racist America. You’re on a ticking clock, Apologist America. You’re on a ticking clock, Willfully Racially Insensitive America.

Because even MLK, who you like to pull out of your ass in times like these, said that he could “neither condone nor condemn riots” and that it was “the language of the unheard”.

And most of Black America? They don’t have fancy blogs or fancy fan pages on Facebook to write fancy statuses. They don’t write fancy books that wax poetic on the racial state of America. And most of them–who are already disenfranchised from the majority of America–have just been told TWICE in the space of a month that they have nothing to lose.

So good luck with that.

There will be no silent shipping off in trains or deportations into concentration camps in the night. You will have a fight every single step of the way.

And you would’ve asked for it.

What Side Should Jewish-Americans Take On Ferguson?

All throughout the Gaza conflict, there were headlines of a certain kind that bothered me in a certain way.

“Israel or Palestine? Do Black People Have A Stake In The Conflict?”
“Why The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Should Matter To Black People”
“What Side Should Black Americans Take On Israel?”
“Why African-Americans Should Support The State of Israel”

It seemed that not five minutes of the continuing conflict would pass by without yet another appeal for the support, input, or opinion of African-Americans on the situation in the Middle East. The rationale of course being parallels drawn between the plight of the Palestinian people and the African American Civil Rights movement (because remember that time African-Americans had missiles to launch at the Klan?) and a convenient case of apparent amnesia regarding the waves of anti-Black anti-immigrant pogroms which had recently swept through Israel. 

Everywhere I saw heated debates across Black-audience blogs going back and forth about the history of the region, its tensions, expressing empathizing with not wanting people shooting rockets at you every day, commiserating with having people show up and start taking your land and relegating you to third-world status in your own country.

The conflict even gave birth to the embodiment of the pro-Israel African-American voice in the form of Chloe Valdary, catapulting her pro-Zionist efforts into the limelight of the public eye.

This did not happen for Blacks and Ferguson, a few scant weeks later. Nor was Ferguson a blip on the Jewish news cycle after the verdict last night, nor in its aftermath today. There are no debates on Tablet Magazine or Jewish Daily Forward or Jewish Week or CoLLive about what the Jewish response should be or to what extent Jews should be involved in the protests. (Yes, peaceful protests are also happening. Not just the riots you seem to be fixated on).

Yet the most cursory glance across a Facebook newsfeed or Twitterfeed reveals many Jews–unfortunately the most vociferous among them being my Orthodox co-denominationalists–have many troubling opinions in support of the mishandling of justice that occurred in last night’s verdict, with many believing in some disingenuous equalizing force of governmental law, as if the Inquisition were not by royal mandate and as if all of Hitler’s machinations weren’t legal.

Jews got a Chloe Valdary out of Gaza. Blacks didn’t get a Chana Valdarowitz out of Ferguson.

So what should Jewish-Americans think about Ferguson? Many things. Here are three:

1-Jewish-Americans don’t mean White people.

Think about that. When you’re thinking it’s perfectly okay to racially profile because “those people” do “those kinds of things”, when you’re rallying behind stop-and-frisk because “if you’re innocent you should have nothing to hide”, when you are busy rabidly advocating policies and legislation which largely do not affect you, and in your mind, don’t affect Jews at all because you imagine all Jews look like you, then you are the reason that Jews–kippah wearing Jews celebrating Purim–get accused of conspiring to commit an act of terrorism and get surrounded by 10 uniformed officers with guns drawn. Because they’re wearing the same skin color as “those people” who you are convinced are the root of society’s problem. And who, more importantly, obviously can’t ever be Jewish.

You think Trayvon Martins can’t be Jewish. You think Michael Browns can’t be Jewish. They can. If not for the grace of G-d, we would’ve had one in 2008.

2-The Holocaust experience and its aftermath is in no way equal to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade experience and its aftermath.

This isn’t Oppression Olympics. It is fact.

Too often I hear from Jewish voices and in Jewish spaces “Why are Blacks still complaining about slavery? We got over the Holocaust. Why can’t Blacks get themselves together? Jews did after Holocaust. Why do Black blame everything on slavery? Why can’t they just take accountability? If more Blacks abided by the law they’d have less problems.”

Firstly, reject that whole “law-abiding” rhetoric. And when someone Black who you deem to be an upwardly mobile, productive member of society is unjustly gunned down by police, do not contribute to the “he was a good kid” narrative. Because it doesn’t matter and because you should know better.

Did being one of the “good Jews” help during the Crusades? The Inquisition? Kristallnacht? Being one of the “good ones” has no bearing on whether your life is decided to have value or not. You know this.

You remember that don’t you? The feeling of living in a country where your life is constantly devalued? In particular by the institutions that are supposed to protect all equally? What it’s like to be approached by the police always as a suspect, never as a citizen?

That is called “America” for Black people. You left Germany and Poland and Russia and Ukraine. So please remove terms like “normal people” and “normal interactions with police” and victim blaming from your dialogue as if there even is such a thing once a class of people have been deemed by the powers-that-be to be subhuman.

It was Jamal’s fault in Texas because he was wearing a hoodie? Then I guess it was Shmuely’s fault in France because he was wearing a yarmulke.

Secondly, why can’t Black people get it together after slavery?
Black Wall Street.

Why can’t Black people get it together after slavery?

Why can’t Black people get it together after slavery?
Prison industrial complex and justice systems complicit with it.

Why can’t Black people get it together after slavery?

Let’s ask a blogger colleague of mine, Son of Baldwin:
“Who gets to be a victim in American society is HIGHLY political. In a big-picture, collective sense, America allows White-looking Jewish people to be victims and permits them the space to remember. African American people, however, are chastised for complaints about oppression (even by other Black people) and are asked to pretend American history didn’t happen, or rather, that it happened like Texas and Arizona says it did.

We hear, very often, ‘Why can’t African Americans get their shit together like Jewish people did?’ Well, if the whole world banded together, with force and military might, to get America to stop its oppression and murder of African Americans via slavery, Jim Crow, the criminal justice system, and the prison industrial complex; prosecuted, imprisoned, or executed every racist or conspirator it could find; ensured that African Americans received all economic compensation from implicated American corporations and industries; cleared a designated area of land so that African Americans could set up their own, UN-backed, financially supported, and world-defended nation, then perhaps African Americans would ‘get their shit together’ like Jewish people did.”

And if all that fell on deaf ears, then think about this:

#BlackLivesMatter is a hashtag here in America. #JewishLivesMatter isn’t.

3-Jews should think about Ferguson, period.

Ferguson is a Jewish problem. It is a Jewish problem regardless of whether or not there are any Jews involved as victim or aggressor.

We are supposed to be a “light unto the nations”, right? Isn’t that the slogan on our business cards? That and engaging in the work of “repairing the world”? Aren’t those our missions?

And if this can happen in a world that we live in, if this is a verdict that can be construed in any way shape or form as “just”, if the shooting of an unarmed teenager with his hands in the air over 140 feet away can be absolved in good conscience, then we, my Jews, have failed.

That is what Jews should think about Ferguson.

All Your Rabbis Are Belong To Us. Except When They’re Not.

Hi, I’m MaNishtana, and welcome to the new year and first post of 5775!

Like many of you, I, too, was greeted post-Simchat Torah with the news of Rabbi Barry “Peeping Tom” Freundel’s arrest for voyeurism in the women’s mikvah.

Now, we all know how I feel about the mikvah. But this was just downright skeezy.

And even worse? Rabbi Freundel was a conversion Rabbi.

And even worser? In the world of minefield landscape that are the Rabbis that are “approved” and “unapproved” by the Vatican Rabbinate in Israel, Rabbi Freundel is/was on the approved list via being a member of the RCA.

And even worserer than that? THE RCA KNEW FREUNDEL WAS BEING SHADY SINCE 2012!! 2012!!

And yet, the biggest story coming out of this isn’t about corruption or abuse of power or sexism or misogyny or general hypocrisy.


No, instead it’s about whether or not those who converted under Freundel–y’know, all those people who consciously sought an RCA-approved Rabbi with its vaunted stamp of approval from the Israeli Rabbinate to specifically avoid questions of their conversion–whether or not those people will have their conversions revoked.

Not because of any shortcoming or laxity of their own, but because of the after shkiah hobbies of the Rabbi who the RCA and therefore Israel said was kosher. And to add insult to injury, it’s Israel who’s on the fence about invalidating them.

Invalidating the people who, y’know, PLAYED BY THEIR RULES.

Why is this something they even have to think about, let alone worry about?

“Hey I used to be Jewish and was totally following all of the rules, then my Rabbi watched some ladies bathing and, welp, here I am back at church.”

Does that make sense to anyone?

Tell me again, what, if any, point does Israel having a “All your Rabbis are belong to us” list of approved Rabbis serve if at any given point that list can apparently just not matter?

Also, if the entire impetus behind the list is that American Rabbis are apparently too lax or whatever the hell the justifications are for invalidating/not accepting some American conversions, what does it really say that for all the non-approved, perfectly decent and non-rapey Orthodox Rabbis out there, Rabbis like Freundel can end up on the list?

Y’know, besides “Fuck you, Diaspora Jewry.”

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Mah Nishtanah Ha-MaNishtana Ha-Zeh?

Hi, I’m MaNishtana, and it’s time for something new. Again.

Yesterday saw the unveiling of Jewnited Nations Magazine, a project I’ve been working on for a little while and so far has gotten a pretty good reception. And today I’m closing the doors on MaNishtana’s Musings, making way for my brand spanking new old site, MaNishtana.net. Again.

Yep, it’s a little bit of a flashback to 2010, and there’s a reason for that.

I started my blog in 2009 to put my voice out there. And in putting my voice out there, in certain ways I became the de facto voice for everyone experiencing the highs and lows of JOC-life. For a little while, that was great.

When I moved from my WordPress to MaNishtana.net and made it a niche social network, there was now a space for people, in the groups and in the forums, to create their own conversations, a concept that was carried on into the later MaNishtana’s Musings.

But it was always the “MaNishtana” name slapped on the front. My voice was THE voice, it dominated everything, and everyone else was sort of just my backup choir. And that’s nearly as backwards as not having a voice at all. Because for all my well-meaning, I’m not the mouthpiece of every JOC in the world, nor does my experience mirror every JOC experience in the world. It was time for the voices of other JOCs to be…the voices for other JOCs.

And so JN Magazine was born.

Will I still be blogging? Yes. Right here. On my personal blog. Because, despite their resonance across the greater JOC continuum, they are my personal thoughts given my personal experience, not the end-all and be-all of all JOCThought everywhere.

But even moreso than that, JN Magazine, and the articles that I contribute to it, is about non-reactionary thoughts.

JOCs do need visibility, but “visibility” doesn’t always necessarily jive with “reactionary”. That’s just negative space that never defines what the space is. And I think it’s high time we defined what the JOC space is.

What we think. Not what we want other people not to think.

Because, crazily enough, we actually do have thoughts, opinions, philosophies, and ideologies that exist outside the context of “Hey, JOCs are this month’s flavor, so what do you think about THIS?” or “Hey, this White Jewish person said/did THIS stupid thing, so what do you think about it?”.

Our ability to feel some type of way doesn’t disappear when you’re not asking us anything, nor does our ability to write eloquently not exist whenever we’re not showing up in a “mainstream” Jewish mag to win them points on diversifying their color palette.

We don’t disappear just because you’re not looking at us.

But don’t be surprised when we’re looking at you. And don’t be surprised when we’re not.

And before I sign off I’d just like to give credit where credit is due, to the godfather of online magazines for and by JOCS, Kehila Magazine by Tali Adina. She blazed the trail already, I’m just walking through what she already cleared away. Check out an interview with her here.

Just, y’know, ignore the photo attached to that article. It’s a Hebrew Israelite congregation (of course unrelated to the actual content of the actual Black Jew being interviewed). So, yeah, we all know how I feel about those.

Anyway, check out JN Magazine. Feel free to write for it, even.

And come back here whenever you want a good ol’ two-fisted reactionary bitchfest. You know I’m good for it. 😀

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After Nearly A Century, American Judaism STILL Can’t Be Bothered With The Difference

Hi, I’m MaNishtana, and right now I am seriously, seriously, seriously annoyed.

Yet again, in an amazing show of irresponsible journalism and a masterful tapestry interweaving falsehoods, half-truths, emotional pandering, and guilt-baiting, the latest article from Tablet Magazine reads “Black Jewish Congregations Get Their Own Prayer Book, After Nearly a Century”, with a heartstring-tugging subtitle of “Mainstream Judaism doesn’t recognize their temples or their rabbis. In a new siddur, Black Jews tell their community’s story.”

Look, I don’t know how, many, times I have to tell you, but this IS NOT BLACK JUDAISM. IT IS NOT BLACK JEWRY. IT IS NOT THE BLACK JEWISH COMMUNITY.

“West African Jewish” liturgy and traditions? Really? Do the Igbo know about this? The Sefwi? Because I’m willing to bet they’d be hella surprised that apparently there’s some Jewish tradition that apparently they should be following, since, y’know, THEY’RE ACTUALLY WEST AFRICAN JEWS.

I’m really not understanding why I have to keep reiterating this point. ESPECIALLY since you’ve already demonstrated that you understand the concept.

What am I talking about?

Well this article right here from–shockingly enough–Tablet Magazine.

In it, it describes a group of Christians–White Christians–who have taken on Jewish practices. Orthodox practices even, such as getting circumcised, laying tefillin, keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat and holidays, and growing peyot.

However, does Tablet say these folk are “Jews who mainstream Judaism doesn’t recognize”? That they are part of “American Jewry”?


In fact, how does Tablet describe this group? Well, let’s see:

“Many of the thousand-plus people who attended Revive 2013, a religious conference held at the Dallas Sheraton last June, wear tzitzit. Many keep kosher and observe the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. Some of the men have beards and peyos. Some have even undergone adult circumcision and/or have circumcised their children. They learn Hebrew, Chumash, even Talmud, and travel whenever they can to Israel. All of them truly, deeply love Hashem.

Yet I’m fairly certain I was the only Jewish person there.”

“a movement of—for lack of a better term—Torah-observant gentiles. These are non-Jews who have no intention of converting to Judaism yet follow laws, customs, beliefs, and practices commonly associated with Judaism.

“Between classes I visited a small conference room on the second floor that acted as a makeshift day care. Most of the 20 or so children were wearing tzitzit, and some had yarmulkes—which are a rabbinic, not a biblical, precept. They listened as the counselors spoke about Hashem, forefathers, prayers, and Israel. When the children would get a little rowdy, the counselor would say a Hebrew prayer call-and-response: “Barchu es Ad-nai hamevorach!” And the kids would shout back, “Baruch Ad-nai hamevorach l’olam va’ed!”

“And many are fulfilling mitzvot that aren’t explicitly stated or detailed in the Torah, such as praying the rabbinic liturgy and observing Hanukkah. Some put on kosher tefillin every morning, and I met a number of Hebrew Roots followers who do not touch money on the Sabbath—which many of them call “Shabbos,” in the style of contemporary ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The unprecedented accessibility of Orthodox texts and ideas online has helped facilitate this appropriation.

“I asked Camero, as I asked everyone else I met, why he doesn’t simply convert to Judaism.

So…wait, you do get it Tablet and everyone else? You do get that just because a group of non-Jews has taken on Jewish and even Orthodox practices doesn’t mean that they are Jews?

For all those in the “Well I consider [these “Black Jews”] to be Jews” camp, do you also consider this group to be Jews, too?

So why is it when the group in question is Black, all of a sudden the group is a put-upon oppressed segment of Jews who aren’t being recognized by Big Judaism?

The discrepancy must only mean that, for all your enlightened, socially justified, forward-thinking, let’s-heal-the-world liberalism…you just don’t care.

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Heschel Heschel Heschel Heschel

Hi, I’m MaNishtana.

Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Tired yet?

I know I am.

Because it seems like one can’t ever talk about the racial divide between Blacks and Jews—”Blacks and Jews” obviously always meaning “non-Jewish Blacks and non-Black Jews”, of course—without someone (usually always White and Jewish) throwing Heschel’s name into the mix.

It’s impossible for Jews to be prejudiced towards Blacks, because Heschel.

Jews and Blacks have always been allies, because Heschel.

Social justice for Blacks has always been important to Jews, because Heschel.

Blacks are responsible for the deterioration of the relationship between Blacks and Jews, because Heschel.

It’s Martin Luther King Day? Let’s talk about how Heschel marched with him that time.

Don’t get me wrong, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was a remarkable figure and did indeed do remarkable things in the Civil Rights Movement. And ever since then American Jews have been running on the fumes of that brief moment in time when a Jewish leader and religious clergyman stood his ground, protested injustice against African Americans, and not only talked the talk, but literally walked the walk. Ever since then, American Jewry has been that star quarterback on the high school football team who never made anything of his life but keeps talking about that one-time he scored five touchdowns in one game.

More egregiously, American Jewry continues to withdraw from a goodwill account which is nearly, if not wholly, dried up.

“Where Do Blacks Stand In The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?”

“Why The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Should Matter To Black Americans”

“How Should African-Americans Feel About the Gaza Situation?”

These are but three of the many articles in the wake of the recent Middle Eastern conflict which called upon Black America—inexplicably above and beyond, say, Japanese America, or Italian America, or Irish America, or Indian America—to make a stand on the world podium concerning Israel and her neighbors, to march in pro-Israel rallies, to stand with Israel.


I assume to invoke some Lord of the Rings-esque callback to days past: “An alliance once existed between Jews and Blacks. Long ago we fought and marched and died together. We call upon you to honor that allegiance. What say you?”

And to that I reply: “An alliance? Where were the Jews when Michael Brown was shot? Where were the Jews on radio shows and news programs and Twitter decrying the police brutality? Where were the new Heschels when our enemies closed around us in Ferguson?”

And where are they? It would seem to be a certain type of entitlement and arrogance to call upon a people to stand with a country half a world away which they largely have no connection to, yet ignore that same people’s plight with injustice in the country which you share with them; to be completely absent from the calls for justice in Ferguson. For all of the invocation of Heschel’s name, you’d think that when a chance arose to renew that relationship, to get involved on the ground floor of yet another civil rights opportunity, Jews would report front and center, not rest on fifty year old laurels.

But nary a peep from the Jewish quarter. Not one Jewish voice has emerged as vociferously in protest of Ferguson as Jews received Black support for Israel in the form of Chloé Valdary.

Well, not completely.

After all, there’s Hedy Epstein, the 90-year old Holocaust survivor arrested for protesting Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson. I’m sure time will eventually cast her into the role of Heschel as well, but as for the present, when a member of the unviolable Holocaust generation feels the need to take a stand—after all, is not a hallmark of American Judaism the veneration of the Holocaust to the exclusion of all other Jewish tragedies (especially those of non-European Jewry)?—perhaps it’s time to step back and look at things. When the premiere result of a society that says nothing when wrongdoing is inflicted upon a segment of its population feels the need to stand up, then you should question why you’re being silent.

And if you’re one of those myopic types who feel they’re being nationalistic and chock full of Jew-pride when they say things like, “Well, as Jews we need to look out for our own first. Let other people worry about their own problems,” then I challenge you.

Forget the fact that you’re a sorry excuse for a human being if you can’t find it in you to empathize with another oppressed people, let alone a terrible Jew.

If you think Ferguson isn’t your problem because it’s not a Jewish problem, then I say, really?

Are you sure?

Are you sure that the violence directed towards the Black population in Ferguson doesn’t affect Jews?

Are you sure that not Jews who, y’know, might also be Black are being affected by the unrest and martial law there?

You’re sure there’s no Jewish families in Black Ferguson?

Well, you’d be wrong.



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