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Will Jews accept African-American converts?


Rabbi Goldwasser

Rabbi Jeffrey Wolfson Goldwasser

Question: Will Jews accept African-American converts?

Dear Rabbi,
My daughter is in love with a bi-racial young man who says that he will convert to Judaism for her if they decide they want to marry. Many of my Jewish peers tell me that he will always be looked upon as an African-American and will not be validated as a Jew, nor will their children, because other Jewish parents will not want their own children to date and/or marry "black Jews." What is the Jewish concept about acceptance of conversion of other races and ethnic back rounds?
Thank you.

Answer: You explain that your daughter is in a relationship with a man of African-American descent who has committed to converting to Judaism if they should decide to marry. You say that you have heard other Jews say that this man will not be considered to be a Jew, even if he does convert, because of his race. They also raise doubts about whether the children of such a marriage would be considered Jewish.

It is antithetical to Jewish values to believe that a person cannot be a Jew because of his or her race.

The disapproval that some of your peers have expressed about the marriage of a white Jew with a non-white Jew has nothing to do with Judaism -- it's just racism. It would be an outrage to use Judaism as an excuse to justify such prejudice.

In the book of Numbers, chapter 12, there is a story about Moses marrying a dark-skinned woman. (She is called a "Cushite" in the Torah; Rashi understands the term to mean that she had black skin). When Moses' sister, Miriam, criticized Moses for marrying her, God punished Miriam by giving her a disease that turned her skin as white as snow. She had to be quarantined away from the other Israelites for a week.

You can tell that story to anyone who tells you that a Jew can't be Black.

Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser

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