On Being a Former Black Jew

In Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Photo by Bonnie Natko, Creative Commons license)

In a Forward opinion piece entitled “Black Jews Are Being Chased Out of the Jewish Community By Racism,” Nylah Burton speaks to Black people across the U.S. and Canada who describe how “being Jewish in spaces that do not want or respect black people” drove them to leave Judaism, or consider leaving it.

Monique, who lives in Borough Park, spoke of the staring and the interrogations, and how it’s the comments from children that hurt the most “because they vocalize what their parents say behind her back.”

She considered not converting in an ultra-Orthodox community. But she gathered up that strength and pushed through, because she wanted to do it “the right way.”

And maybe, just maybe, she felt that she could pave the way for other black women who might live in Borough Park after her. Maybe one of those women would be a convert, just like her, someone who felt that she needed to convert “the right way.”

Joe, from New York, left Chabad after “the exhaustion of ‘begging people to acknowledge’ him proved to be too much and he left.” At the same time, he believes that being a Black Jew in Israel might be easier than being a Black man in the U.S.

Find out why at The Forward. There, also read more from Monique and the experiences of other Black Jews across North America.

3 Comments

  1. Melala, Actual Jew of Color says:

    One problem.

    Nylah Burton is indeed Black. But she’s not a Jew. She has Christian parents and Christian grandparents. Her sole nebulous claim to Judaism is “feeling Jewish” and claiming an allegedly Jewish great-grandfather she never met. She was homeschooled for Christian religious reasons. She has not converted. By her own admissions in her own writings she never even inquired about Jewishness until Junior year at Howard, and she does not qualify for either Birthright or Aliyah, which require only one Jewish Parent or one Jewish Grandparent respectively. She took an intro to Judaism course at Hillel. Which does not do conversions (as Julia Salazar also claimed).

    Nylah is a Black woman in JewFace. She is Nylah Dolezalstein. She is a fraud. She feels she shouldn’t have to convert to prove her faux Jewishness. No entry into Covenant, No Jewish Card. That’s how this works.

    Every time you elevate this imposters voice you silence another Jewish Woman of Color in lieu of a woman who can discard Jewishness just like Rachel Dolezal can discard her perm and spray tan.

    And it’s offensuve.

    • Hi Melala, I got suspicious that all of her “reporting” couldn’t uncover a Black-Jewish voice that felt at home among Jews. Can you tell us how you know this info about Nylah?

  2. See above. Agreed. Thank you Melala.

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