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I am offended when others refer to me as a “Black Jew”...

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein


Library » Mitzvot » Love thy Neighbor | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Don’t be offended by what other people call you. Here is why: a) they might not intend it offensively in the first place. b) Even if there are people who do say it with racist undertones, don’t allow their lowly character and obvious shortcomings to affect you.

Be proud within, and you won’t be offended from without
As long as your mother is Jewish, you are a child of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and as Jewish as Moses. That is how G-d views you. That is how the good people of this world look at you. Who cares what fools think?!

Be proud within, and you won’t be offended from without.


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Posted by: Ariella Michal on Aug 21, 2006

This reply is very nice, but rather useless. Not only does it ignore gerim, but it also ignores the fact that no matter what halachah states, no matter what seems to someone to be the "logical" way to look at it, the pain of racism, particularly within the Jewish community - particularly the Torah-observant community - is extraordinarily, irreversibly, excrutiatingly painful for the object of that racism who knows it will never EVER end. The looks, LACK of looks, stupid foot-in-mouth comments, CONSTANT requests to tell "your story", schwartza "jokes" circulated by your so-called "peers"... All of this amounts to a constant slamming of the door of Jewish identity in your face. To, on a daily basis, be told that you are not a Jew because you are not like "us". Reading commentary regarding dark skin negatively! This is what is happening in our communities. And it should not be trivialized and addressed so casually with a meager "just ignore them", "who cares what they think".

Editor's Comment

Rabbi Chein responds: While I think your description of the Jewish community is highly exaggerated - at least from the multitudes of Jewish communities I have lived in, I do agree with you that any amount of racism, anywhere, is unacceptable and should be abolished. As a matter of fact, if this was a problem in a community where I was the spiritual leader I would immediately address the community regarding this. In this response, however, I addressed the real issue as it pertains to this correspondence. There is absolutely nothing I could do to influence the people who were making these remarks; furthermore, I don't even know who these people are. On the other hand, it was within my capabilities to infuse the victim of these remarks with the necessary tools so that the problem would no longer affect him. And so HIS wellbeing (rather than the wrongdoings of others) was the real issue at hand, and thus the issue I addressed. You are correct; I did neglect to mention Geirim. For the record: if you underwent an authentic conversion you too are now a child of Abraham and as Jewish as Ruth.

re: useless

Posted by: Ariella Michal, Chicago, IL on Sep 28, 2006

Rabbi Chein. I'm sorry you find my description to be "highly exaggerated". I and others live this daily. I'm left with the notion that you have little if any contact with Jewish Black-Americans and I can't make anyone believe/understand something for which they have no experience/frame of reference. True, G-d loves us and knows us as others do not. But you didn't suggest the performance of any action external to the victim that would "abolish" racism. Racism won't go away by merely changing the emotional response of the victim. It needs to be confronted. Why not suggest he speak to his Rabbi or kolel? Create awareness and spark action within the community? Join sympathetic Jewish groups for comfort, to foster togetherness when he is pained. Given your suggestion, the victim would always remain a victim, bare the lone responsibility of swallowing a near constant barrage of attacks and likely become isolated from the community. And is it ever a good idea to view another Jew as a "fool"?

Editor's Comment

The question wasn't how to make racism go away. It was how to make it stop hurting. To make it go away you have to change others, and until you change them it will continue to hurt: you will continue to be a victim. To make it stop hurting you have to change yourself. And you can change yourself immediately. The racists will still be bigots, but you will no longer be their victim. Their acts still need to be stopped, but at least your life can go on.


Jewish Identity » Who/What is a Jew?
Jewish Identity » Love thy Neighbor

[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.