How Not To Relate To Black Jews

I’m acquainted with about a dozen black Jews in Pico-Robertson.

I think the first one I met was at Bnai David in 1994 at a Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz talk and I went up to him and said, “You don’t meet many black Jews” and proceeded to question him.

I don’t think it was his favorite social interaction.

Blog post:

I understand that for some it is very interesting, or “unique,” to meet a Jew of color, but one must understand that it is rude and halachically unacceptable to personally interrogate with every Jew you meet. Furthermore, not every Jew of color is a convert, and even if they are, halachically speaking, you are in no way allowed to ask a convert (of color or otherwise), their story, their past, or anything that reminds them that they are a convert. Additionally, what makes one think that within 30 seconds of meeting someone, a convert would want to open up and tell you their whole life story? Why would they be comfortable revealing the fine details of what made them decide to convert, and how they became interested in Yiddishkeit to begin with, to someone they just met? It is especially rude to ask while your children are staring and pointing at this new person during davening as if they have never seen a person of color in their life before, while you try to have an allegedly deep conversation. This only adds to the awkwardness of the situation for the interrogated. Instead, it is perhaps better to reconsider how or if you have taught your children proper manners. Also, for some reason people think that it is a short, simple story. If it took someone their entire lifetime, thus far, to find their truth, why imply that it is a tale easily summed up in a three-minute story by putting them on the spot under very awkward circumstances?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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