Posts Tagged ‘African-American Jews’

Unusual Would-Be Rabbi, Unusual Tuition

February 1, 2014

This piece was first published in The Times of Israel.

Sandra Lawson is funding her rabbinical school tuition in an unusual way. (Courtesy of Sandra Lawson)

Sandra Lawson is funding her rabbinical school tuition in an unusual way. (Courtesy of Sandra Lawson)

Sandra Lawson is hoping to get by with a little help from her friends…and strangers, too. The third year student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, PA, has taken to social media to crowdfund tuition for the 2014-15 academic year.

Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe (Lawson’s online platform of choice) are not the usual places rabbinical students go for financial help, but then again Lawson is not your usual rabbinical student. She is an African-American, a lesbian, and a convert to Judaism.

Click here to read more.

 © 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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Always A Jew, Always An Olivia

June 24, 2012

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.

Click here to read more.

© 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

How To Avoid Being JOC-Slapped

July 21, 2010

What’s so different about MaNishtana, a blogger, screenwriter and filmmaker? For a start, he’s an African-American Jew whose family has been Jewish for over two centuries. He’s a JOC (that’s – Jew Of Color) who is making it his mission to not only educate people about Judaism, but also fight prejudices against JOCs. He’s tired of getting “twice of the racism, but none of the fun.” He’s sarcastic, he’s incisive, and he’s worth watching.

Check out MaNishtana’s website, and watch his videos, two of which are posted here.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Update: A related article in The New York Times was published August 27 following the murder of Yoseph Robinson, a Jamaican-born convert, killed during a robbery attempt. Click here to read it.