Celebrating African American Jews

Every February, Black History Month is celebrated across America. The triumphs and achievements of African Americans are remembered and recognized.

As members of the Jewish community, we know how important it is to celebrate what makes us unique. Both the Jewish people and African Americans alike, have a common history of oppression.

In her 1991 memoir, Deborah, Golda, and Me, Letty Cottin Pogrebin argued that Black-Jewish relationships rested on a common history of oppression. “Both Blacks and Jews have known Egypt,” she wrote. “Jews have known it as certain death (the killing of the firstborn, then the ovens and gas chambers). Blacks have known it as death and terror by bondage.”

Of the many pieties of American Jewry, few have been accepted so readily and widely at face value or have been so influential as the easy assumption that Blacks and Jews share vital interests arising out of what the Rabbi-historian Arthur Hertzberg termed the “comradeship of excluded peoples.” I would like to take some time to talk about Black Jewish individuals who have truly made a difference in our world.

Drake, one of the most recognized rappers of the Millennial generation, was born to and raised by, a Jewish mother, attended Hebrew school and had a Bar Mitzvah. His faith and identity, to this day, are strongly rooted in the Jewish faith. Growing up Drake faced many instances of bullying, specifically by children who could not understand how he could be black and Jewish. Drake has become an advocate for multiracial inclusion and diversity.

Yavilah McCoy, is the founder of Ayecha, an organization aimed at providing diversity education to Jews of color in America. Born in Crown Heights, New York, McCoy studied at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and has taught many Jewish Studies courses in secondary level schools. In 2009, she co-wrote and performed The Colors of Water, which describes the generational journey of her fa

April Baskin, born in 1983 and raised in Sacramento California, is a prominent voice in the

Reform Judaism movement. Baskin attended Tufts University, graduating with a Sociology degree in 2013. She has served as the president of the Jewish Multiracial Network from 2010-2013.

April Baskin is a voice of social justice and activism within the Union for Reform Judaism, currently serving as their Vice President of Audacious Hospitality. She is also a member of National Women’s March steering committee.

Ilana Kaufman, born to an Ashkenazi Jewish mother and an African American father, has used her experience as a queer Jewish woman of color to advocate endlessly for social diversity and inclusivity across all walks of life. She currently serves as the Director of the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative, working to advance and unite the professional field for Jews of Color.

David Bluthenthal, more commonly known as David Blu, is an American-Israel professional basketball player. He was born to a Jewish mother and an African American father. Representing the United States in the 1997 Maccabiah Games, he spent 10 seasons in the EuroLeague, and is the face of the Israeli national team. He continues to be a voice of the underrepresented, making his way around the world giving speeches. Through his work as a social justice advocate, he has promoted inclusion and multiracial diversity throughout his career.

Zoë Kravitz, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet is shattering the glass for the Jewish African American community. She is a critically acclaimed actress starring in The Divergent Series, and

Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road. She has been a champion for social justice, utilizing her social media platform to promote inclusion and diversity among the world.

The 21st century if bright for members of the Jewish African American community. With a continual strive for a more inclusive and understanding society, these individuals are a solid example of what it means to be inclusive and fight for the rights of others.

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