I’m a Black Jew – How I’m Dealing with Antisemitism This Passover
Being black in America is tough. It’s also hard to be Jewish in America. When you combine the two, you get me, a 31-year-old black Jew living in Harlem.
I am not complaining. I am very proud to represent my Black and Jewish roots. But it has been a challenge to contend with the staggering rise in anti-Semitism and ongoing racism in this country.
Because I work in the media, almost every day I read or hear something in the news that relates to an act of racism or anti-Semitism. I’ve worked hard to accept and love myself, but there are people out there who want to harm me and others who identify as Black or Jewish. That’s scary. But it’s incidents like this that make me more empowered to tell my story and fight hate speech.
Systemic racism and anti-Semitism have always been a part of American life. But it was amplified in October 2022 when Kanye West (aka Ye, Yeezy and whatever else he chooses to call himself that day) attempted to establish a war on the Jewish people by inciting widespread anti-Semitism to his millions of followers Twitter rants sent.
This broke my heart, especially as I had just gone public with my desire to reconnect with my Jewish faith and community, and I feared being rejected and expelled from members of the Jewish community due to Kanye’s vile comments become.
I was a fan of Kanye’s music but also of his work as an artist and designer. That, of course, was before he wore White Lives Matter t-shirts at his Paris fashion show and ranted on Twitter about George Floyd not being murdered. I thought the worst was behind us, but then a few weeks later, NBA star Kyrie Irving jumped on the anti-Semitic bandwagon, followed by Whoopi Goldberg and other notable black celebrities.
But let’s be clear, some Jews have also contributed to the problem of growing bigotry. Blame cannot and should not be placed solely on Kanye and other black people with powerful platforms.
Ben Shapiro is one of the best-known political news commentators in this country. He also happens to be Jewish, and in July 2022 he appeared at a CPAC Israel event and said, “It is an unfortunate reality of life in the United States that Reform Judaism as a branch does not take Jewish identity seriously. So when people in the United States self-identify as Jews, that doesn’t really mean they’re doing anything that has anything to do with Judaism; it means her last name ends in “berger”, “stein” or something like that [similar]. And you know, there are a lot of people whose last name ends in ‘berger’ or ‘stein’ who reject almost all Jewish values in principle.”
It should be noted that Shapiro – who has defended Kanye’s extreme policies while calling his anti-Semitism “disturbing” – works with Candace Owens on the conservative news platform Daily Wire. Not only has Owens defended and supported Kanye during his anti-Semitic meltdown, she wore a White Lives Matter shirt right by his side.
This raises certain questions: how can you be black and hate black people? How can you be Jewish and give a voice to those who openly support anti-Semitism?
Anti-Semitism has even crept into the corners of my neighborhood.
I’ve lived in Harlem for the last 10 years – which has always been a dream of mine as a black Jew, largely because it’s where black excellence and history happens and there are numerous Jewish organizations and synagogues in or near Harlem. Harlem is a beautiful, close-knit community that has recently become a melting pot of diverse backgrounds and cultures.
The heartbeat of Harlem has always been a place of acceptance.
But lately I’ve noticed that Harlem’s energy has changed. What was once uplifting – and at the same time soothing when strolling the brownstone-lined streets – has now turned into a place where chaos, militant and hateful rhetoric against blacks and Jews takes place on a daily basis.
This is my experience on any given Saturday, walking down 125th Street to do some basic household shopping, only to find black Hebrew Israelites blaring conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs through loudspeakers.
To the uninitiated, the Black Hebrew Israelites are a racist, homophobic, misogynist, anti-Semitic hate group united by the ideology that they are the true descendants of Biblical Jews and that Jewish people are “fake Jews” and will one day be given rulership God is to rule over the earth.
Whenever I encounter black Hebrew Israelites preaching in Harlem, I do my best to avoid them, usually wearing headphones to block out their vile and inflammatory rhetoric. But what I can’t avoid is the fact that her views will be legitimized and mirrored across the country, including among black leaders and celebrities who should know better. (As a black Jew, I also had to shut down when people try to associate all colored Jews with this movement.)
It is crucial that these supremacist beliefs are vigorously called out and rejected, lest they gain momentum and greater acceptance. It has been reported that there has been a significant increase in organizations, ideologies, platforms and crimes against Jewish people by black Hebrew Israelites. Passover is here, one of the most important holidays in Judaism.
At its core, it is about celebrating and reflecting on the freedom of liberation from slavery. Overcoming slavery is something that binds and connects Jews and blacks.
These are two beautiful and resilient groups who have always valued and supported each other despite the abuse of those trying to divide us. We must come together and realize that our similarities far outweigh our differences – including how food and culinary traditions like the Seder are used to reflect on our past, and how we survived our oppressors and now live as free people .
This Passover is a perfect time for blacks and Jews to unite and realize that together we are stronger.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/im-a-black-jewheres-how-i-deal-with-antisemitism-this-passover I’m a Black Jew – How I’m Dealing with Antisemitism This Passover