July 12, 2015
Interestingly, the new head of the Black Jews in America is Michelle Obama’s first cousin.
It appears that Funnye is a convert, and thus does not himself have any actual Jew blood – but he believes in his mind he does, which is good enough, apparently.
When Rabbi Capers Funnye Jr. enters an unfamiliar synagogue at dawn to join the daily recitation of Hebrew prayers, his presence inevitably prompts questions.
The 63-year-old African-American occasionally shares his story about growing up in the AME church on Chicago’s South Side, then discovering Judaism as an adult. Or he makes light of the suggestion that he doesn’t belong by telling bemused skeptics he picked up a prayer shawl and skullcap outside and wanted to see how they worked.
“Unfortunately, by and large, when you see any imagery of Jews in the United States, very seldom do you see members of my community,” said Funnye, who lives in Beverly. “But we have African-American Jews, African Jews, Filipino Jews, Mexican Jews, white Jews and biracial Jews. It is really what the Jewish people, in fact, have always looked like. … We have to promote that Jews have always been a global people.”
Funnye, the spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in the Marquette Park neighborhood, soon could have the platform to set the record straight about race and diversity within the American Jewish community.
A cousin to first lady Michelle Obama who spent many a Sunday afternoon with her family while growing up on the South Side, Funnye is poised to become the titular head of the International Israelite Board of Rabbis, which includes black Jews in the U.S., Caribbean, South Africa, Uganda and Nigeria. Just as his cousin by marriage, Barack Obama, has used his platform as commander in chief to address race relations in the U.S., Funnye hopes to use his prominence as chief rabbi to improve race relations in Jewish communities around the world.
The Ethiopian Hebrew movement to which Funnye belongs is one of a few black Jewish movements now under the Israelite umbrella, all of which believe they are Jews of African descent.
But Israelites have remained largely outside the mainstream Jewish community because they often aren’t considered Jewish without a traditional Jewish conversion.
“The community is not willing to have anybody dictate our right to practice Torah and have our own community,” said Rabbi Baruch Yehudah, international secretary of the Israelite board. “Over the years it has been a teeth-grinding situation.”
Though this is some weird Negro cult not really related to Judaism as we think of it, there are actual Black Jews.
Jews are not actually a race, but an anti-race – all races mixed together. As such, Black Jews are just Jews with more African blood than others.
Even “White” Ashkenazi Jews, however, have a certain percentage of Negro blood, as evidenced by those kinky “Jewfro” hair patterns.