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Black Jews

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Title: Black Jews  
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Subject: Black people, Zionism, African Jews, Karakul (hat), New York Board of Rabbis
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Black Jews

"Black Jews" redirects here. For the Black Jews of Malabar, see Cochin Jews.

The history of the Jews in the African diaspora refers to black Jews living in the African diaspora.

North America

The American Jewish community includes Jews with African-American background, many of mixed marriages. Black Jews belong to each of the major American Jewish denominationsOrthodox, Conservative, Reform — and to the smaller movements as well. Like their white Jewish counterparts, there are also Black Jewish secularists and Black Jews who may rarely or never take part in religious practices.[1]

Estimates of the number of Black Jews in the United States range from 20,000[2] to 200,000.[3]


The total number of Jews of Black African descent in France is not known, but there are approximately 250 Black Jews in Paris.[4] Fraternité Judéo-Noire, based in Paris, advocates on behalf of these Black Jews.

Jews from Arab states in North Africa

The creation of the modern State of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent expulsion and emigration of Jews from the neighboring Arab states led to growing numbers of non-European Jews settling in Israel, among them Jews from North Africa — chiefly Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. For these African Jews, emigration to Israel was the end of the Jewish diaspora and the beginning of the African diaspora.[5][6]

Many North African Jews emigrated to Europe, utilizing citizenship granted in the colonial period. Thus some Libyan Jews immigrated to Italy while some Algerian, Tunisian, and Moroccan Jews immigrated to France. Subsequent events, such as the Algerian War for Independence, the 1956 Suez Crisis, and the Six-Day War in 1967, led to the almost complete emigration of the Jews still remaining in Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco. Today the only viable Jewish communities in North Africa are in the island of Djerba and in Morocco.[5][7]

Ethiopian Jews

Main article: Aliyah from Ethiopia

Individual Ethiopian Jews had lived in the Land of Israel prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. A youth group arrived in Israel in the 1950s to undergo training in Hebrew education and returned to Ethiopia to educate young Jews there. Also, Ethiopian Jews had been trickling into Israel prior to the 1970s.

During the 1970s, members of the Beta Israel, a community of Ethiopian Jews, began to immigrate to Israel after Ovadia Yosef, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, ruled that they were descendents of the Biblical Israelites and that they should be eligible for citizenship under Israel's Law of Return. As famine gripped Ethiopia during the 1980s, several thousand Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in Operation Moses, but political instability in Ethiopia and Sudan made further immigration impossible. In 1991, when circumstances changed, more than 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were flown to Israel in Operation Solomon.[8]

Absorption of the Ethiopian Jews into Israeli society has been complicated by what some members of the community perceive as racism.[9] According to the Anti-Defamation League, there are few reports of discrimination in Israel.[10] Most Israelis support the Ethiopian Jews, who have received more aid from the Israeli government than any previous immigrant group.[10] One study attributed some of the problems to the model of absorption chosen by the Israeli government. To prepare for the absorption the Ethiopian Jews, Israel adopted two "Master Plans", the first in 1985 and the second in 1991. Like earlier absoption policies, both Master Plans were based on the assumption that the new immigrants were broadly similar to Israel's existing majority population.[11]

The Israeli Chief Rabbinate required the new arrivals to undergo certain conversion procedures, which many of the Ethiopian Jews considered an insult.[10] In 1996, the Magen David Adom destroyed all blood that had been donated by Ethiopian Jews due to fear it might be contaminated with HIV or AIDS. Authorities pointed to the high incidence of AIDS and HIV in Ethiopia to explain the policy.[12]

According to a 1999 report commissioned by Israel's Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, 75% of the Ethiopian Jews living in Israel could not read or write Hebrew. Nearly 50% could not converse in Hebrew. Because the Ethiopian immigrants came from a subsistence economy, they were not prepared to work in an industrialized society such as Israel's.[13] An earlier study by the Brookdate Institute of Gerontology and Adult Development found that 66% of the Ethiopian women and 85% of the Ethiopian men in the city of Kiryat Gat could speak Hebrew.[14]

In 2008, the unemployment rate among Ethiopian Jews in Israel was 18%, nearly three times that of the general Israeli population.[15][16] A 2005 study found that the poverty rate among Ethiopian Jewish families was 60%, compared with 20% among all Israeli families.[17]

See also


Further reading

External links

  • , a site for "Black American Jews and their friends to communicate".
  • at Temple University, a "research and learning institution dedicated to scholarship on Afro-Jewish peoples and developing awareness of the historical, political, religious, and philosophical issues that arise from the convergence of the African and Jewish diasporas".
  • , a group whose mission is "to build a community of Jews of color and multiracial Jewish families".

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