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Passover--Being Black and Jewish, what's that?

13 April 2012
I've been debating rather or not I should write this post because when I first starting telling people I was Jewish, a lot of questions abound and after a while you just get tired of answering questions or inherently segregating yourself or others doing it for you. Many notice my name "Tanisha Shulamit" which is a combination of my birth name and hebrew name. My hebrew name is Tovah Shulamit and I wear it proudly. Not to mention I was one of the loves of King Solomon and am spoken about every Shabbat--wink.

Me at the Wall, March 2004, bundled in a friend's coat. Its was cold, burrr

I tend to keep my religious beliefs to myself because honestly I am not a hard liner however the beautiful thing about being Jewish is that we do not believe we corner the market on truth and the way to God. I believe in universal truths and then I believe in cultural rites and all religions are a mixture of both.

These are the last days of Passover and man don't get me started on the stomach issues one faces without yeasty foods for ten days but I love my holidays. I won't go into detail about how I am Jewish because frankly it is non-yah, however, I wanted to give you a few facts and highlight a couple of amazing celebrities, in this case women, that are both black and jewish because frankly I am tired of the misconception that all black people are either Christian or Muslim. There are many of us who are Jewish, Atheists, Deists, Buddhist, Hindus and a slew of other things and for once, I think that we should see this diversity in the media.

Fact #1-- There are over 400,000 practicing Jewish Americans of African descent (not Hebrew Israelites, that's a different group). Many were the result of black and Jewish unions during the Civil Rights Movement. (Jewish Rabbis bankrolled MLKs movement in the 60s) and post civil rights 70s. Some were born Jewish-- many slaves converted to Judaism after the Civil War and the Emancipation. And some converted for love and plain belief. And some believe that many of the slaves captured from Africa were Jews--Ethiopia and and S. Africa anyone?

Fact #2-- There are two (there are others) major sects of Jews in the world, Ashkenazim--jews from eastern europe such as Germany, Russia, Poland etc and Sephardim (used to mean Jews from the Iberian peninsula(Spain) but now covers Italian Jews, Jews from Spain, North Africa and the Middle East.

Fact #3-- Do you agree with everything Israel does? No I do not but at the same time I  do not agree with everything Palestine or America does. I believe in peace and joy for all and I truly believe that we all can have that peace and joy and not at the expense of others. I tend to see both sides of a coin and most times I am neutral. I will call you out when you are wrong and back you up when you are right. I also have family that live in Israel.

Fact #4-- What's your favorite holiday? Well, my fave holiday(s) are Purim--it is the Jewish answer to Halloween where we celebrate the saving of the Jews in the Persian empire by Esther. This holiday you are permitted to dress up in costumes and get stinking drunk. In fact most people bring there rabbi a bottle of vodka (ashkenazim) or wine/Araq (sephardim). Its a big party where we forget to tell the difference between blessings and curses and it is one of the only holidays we celebrate a woman. I love Rosh Hashana where we celebrate the goodness of god. Its the beautiful Days of Awe and Yom Kippur (day of repentance) where we repent not individually but as a community because we believe that what one person does the whole community does. And Simcha Torah, when we get to wave Israeli flags and dance around the Torah. We know how to celebrate!

For you who do not know. Here are a few fabulous celebrities --there are some actors but I prefer to focus on women-- that are both black and Jewish, to learn more about other Black and Jewish celebrities check out this HuffPost article:

Rashida Jones, born to a jewish mother Peggy Lippman and Music Exec father Quincy Jones

Kat Graham of The Vampire Diaries born to an Austrian Jewish mom and a black American father

Lisa Bonet, born to a sephardic Jewish mother and black American father

Kali Hawk of Bridesmaids has Black and Native American and German Jewish ancestry

Singer Gaopele was born to a South African Father and Israeli mother

Lauren London, actress, born to a black american mother and jewish father. according to halakhah judaism is passed down through the mom but who am I to tell her she isn't jewish enough? She identifies with it so she is.

Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz (both jewish)

Sophie Okonedo, British Actress of Aeon Flux and Hotel Rwanda was born to Nigerian father and Ashkenazi Jewish mother.

Tracee Ellis Ross, daughter of crooner Diana Ross was born to a Jewish father and black American mother and identifies as jewish.


I hope this year that we will learn to not label and to be open to those that are different than we are. If you want change, then first start with yourself and I promise the world will be a much better place. Until next blog, Happy Passover or whatever you are celebrating. And have a laugh with these funny spoofs on being black and jewish:





Kat Graham's Black and Jewish <---This is HUH-LARIOUS