One of a “growing cadre of incredibly talented Jewish leaders of Color,” MaNishtana is an author, writer, educator, playwright, rabbi, and public speaker, whose work on racial and religious identity & culture–and how their intersections manifest in America–takes prejudice, bias, and ignorance head on, asking the questions about humanity, race, religion, and social injustice that we all have (and maybe are afraid to talk about), with gut-punching insight and gut-busting sarcasm.
A New York-based African-American Orthodox Jew born from two African-American Orthodox Jewish parents, MaNishtana grew up Chabad-Lubavitch and hails on his mother’s side from a legacy of African-American Judaism stretching into the 1780’s.
MaNishtana has appeared in both national and international press–including the New York Times, New York Magazine, the Jewish Week, the Jerusalem Post, Tachles, D La Reppublica, Unleash the Fanboy, and others–and has appeared on film in the documentaries Punk Jews (2012) and Doing Jewish: A Story From Ghana (2016). He has contributed to the Jewish Daily Forward, Tablet Magazine, and Hevria, and was selected as a presenter to both the BBYO International Convention and for ELI Talks in 2017. In February 2018, MaNishtana earned his first Orthodox rabbinical ordination, and is currently earning his second. Since 2019, he has presented at several Limmud conferences, including Limmud UK, Limmud Oz, and Limmud NY.
A recipient of the Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36” award in 2014, and a cohort of the 2016 ROI Summit, MaNishtana is the author of three books on Jewish and African-American identity. A graduate of Brooklyn College (BA, English & Secondary Education, 2005), his debut novel “Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi” won as Finalist for the 2018 National Jewish Book Award’s Goldberg Award in the category of Debut Fiction, and is an Amazon Kindle Top 50 bestseller in the category of Jewish American Fiction. Additionally, MaNishtana has been a contributor to both the The Kveller Haggadah: A Seder for Curious Kids (and Their Grownups), and the Tablet Magazine-published James Beard Award Nominee “The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List.”
In 2019, MaNishtana was named to both The 50 Jews Everyone Should Follow on Twitter by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Forward Magazine’s 25th annual list of influential American Jews, the Forward 50. In 2020, he appeared on The Algemeiner’s annual J100 list.
Alongside such notable figures as Chris Rock, Dmitry Salita, Bernie Sanders, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, MaNishtana is an alumnus of James Madison High School in Brooklyn (Class of 1999).
MaNishtana lives in New York with his wife–a biracial American Jew and fourteenth-generation descendant of Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman-Heller, the Tosafot Yom Tov and 17th-century chief rabbi of Prague–and their daughter, the Tosafot Yom Tov’s African-American fifteenth-generation descendant.