A Center for Afro-Jewish Studies; 100 Years of Intermarriage


File under: The Rising Consciousness of Black Jews.

An African-American Jewish professor of religion has started a center on Afro-Jewish studies at Temple University in Philadelphia. Dr. Lewis Gordon, the son of a Jamaican Jewish mother and a non-Jewish afro-Chinese father, has already presented research at a Jewish studies conference and created an undergraduate course on Afro-Judaism, but in the future he’d like to create a Torah commentary for Africana Jews, do a demographic study of Philadelphia’s black Jewish community and eventually do archaeological digs into African-Jewish history in Africa.

While many of us think of intermarriage as a phenomenon of the last few decades, according to an excerpt from The Forward from 1907 reprinted in a recent issue, mixed marriages are “nothing new.”:

Mixed marriages are all the rage nowadays. We’ve recently received numerous letters from Jewish men and women who have married non-Jews and live their lives quite happily. There’s no point in getting agitated either for or against the phenomenon; the masses always do what they want. They can scream about it all they want in the synagogues and study houses that the Jews will disappear. But is this true? Absolutely not. Throughout their history, Jews have married non-Jews. Even if you go back to the beginning, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all had gentile wives. So there’s nothing new here.

Following the trend started by JTA, the Jewish Journal North of Boston just published an article on interfaith burial options in Boston’s North Shore. Here’s an interesting quote from the piece:

[David] McKenna, who maintains 21 North Shore cemeteries, said an article in the Jan. 12 edition of the Journal “Intermarried Struggle with Burial Options” left people with “the distinct impression that the only interfaith burial option for North Shore families was to make the long drive out to the Beit Olam Cemetery in Wayland.” But the options are not so limited.

That suggests to me that the impetus for some of these interfaith burial stories might have been local cemeteries who wanted to make clear that there are more burial options for interfaith families than the original JTA article suggested.

Also in the (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent: a story about an interfaith group who watched the documentary Mixed Blessings.

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