In Black Orthodox hip-hop M.C. Y-Love’s song State of the Nation, he reels off statistics gleaned from the National Jewish Population Survey. After listing the number of Jews who become Orthodox, change their last names, and buy trees from JNF, he lets loose with the line: “One out of 44 looks like me.”
He’s talking about Black Jews. Traditionally a small slice in the pie of American Jewish life, the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco reports that there are over 150,000 Black Jews living in the USA alone. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution does a survey, from ATL to Silver Spring, looking at how Black Jews blend in–or don’t–to congregations.
It doesn’t look at predominantly Black synagogues, nor does it delve into the Black Israelites in Chicago and Atlanta, nor does it focus on Ethiopian Jews–which, given how many people are quick to relegate the existence of Black Jews to Israel and crazy Bible-thumping folks on the street corner, is actually kind of a relief. (Nor does it discuss the awesome and venerable Rabbi Joshua Nelson, the progenitor of kosher gospel…but he’s probably worth a post all by himself.)