The Beta Israel (also known as Falashas) from Ethiopia have been accepted by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate as Jews, while hundreds of the Abuyudaya community in Uganda were converted by American Conservative rabbis. An increasing number of Black African groups assert a Jewish identity as descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Other Black African groups have identified with the principles of Biblical Judaism, while some claim to be the authentic Jews, as opposed to the European-born pretenders who established Israel and comprise the majority of American Jews.
The Black Jews of Africa: History, Religion, Identity
This book, by a student of English scholar Tudor Parfitt, traces the roots of these Black Jewish groups to trends in African- American history, as well as admiration for the rise and success of the State of Israel, and a desire to create an identity independent of European colonial influences. There is also the remarkable case of the Lembas of South Africa and Zimbabwe who identify as Jews and have been found frequently to be carriers of the recently identified “Cohen chromosome” in their DNA. This scholarly work of anthropology examines the origins and beliefs of Black Jewish groups in more than a dozen African nations, without addressing the question of their theological or halakhic legitimacy. Bibliography, index, map, and notes.
Robert Moses Shapiro teaches modern Jewish history, Holocaust studies, and Yiddish language and literature at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. His most recent book is The Warsaw Ghetto Oyneg Shabes-Ringelblum Archive: Catalog and Guide (Indiana University Press in association with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Library and the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, 2009). He is currently engaged in translating Polish and Yiddish diaries from the Łódź ghetto and the Yiddish Sonderkommando documents found buried in the ash pits at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
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