This article was first published in The Times of Israel.
According to Jewish tradition, all Jews were standing at Sinai. As a child, Carolivia Herron was sure she, too, had been there; that she has seen Moses. But as a little African-American girl with “nappy hair” (of which she later wrote in a so-titled,controversial children’s book) and a Baptist mother and a Methodist father, there would have been little, if any, reason to think that she really had a “yiddishe neshama” (Jewish soul).
But, as it turned out, Herron was Jewish — but neither she nor anyone else (or so it seemed to her) knew it at the time. The story of how exactly this came to be is amazing, and it is one that Herron is now sharing through her latest children’s book, “Always an Olivia: A Remarkable Family History” (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2007).
This professor of comparative literature and African American studies’ genealogical narrative is one of Sephardic Jewish ancestry, but with some highly unusual twists, including a kidnapping by pirates, a rescue by the US Marines, and a long sojourn with the Geechees (also known as the Gullah), a unique community of free African-Americans — former slaves — living on the coastal islands off the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.
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© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.