Black to the Future!

Hey guys, I’m MaNishtana.

On June 24th, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles released a video entitled What will the Jewish future look like”, a very cutesy/endearing video which–except for maybe one partially-Asian child–was consisted of 10-12 solely White Jewish children.

That’s right.

Apparently there’s no racial diversity in the Judaism Of The Future.

So here’s where I–and you–come in.

I’m coordinating a response video addressing what the future of Judaism REALLY looks like, and I need your help.

I know some of you are parents or relatives to a lil JOC, (preferably in the 14 and under age group, but we can make some exceptions I guess).  If you’re interested in undertaking this endeavor, then follow as below:

1-Videotape your lil JOC answering the following questions (and please try to make the audio as clear as possible):

a-What does being Jewish mean to you?

b-What do you like about Judaism/being Jewish?

c-What do you want the future of Judaism/being Jewish to be?

d-Do you want to marry someone Jewish?

2-Videotape your lil JOC interacting with something “Jewish” (ie, Torah scroll, praying, shofar, challah, matzah, candles, kiddish cup, whatever).

3-Send me the video at manishtana@manishtana.net.

We’re working in a very tight timeframe here for this video response to still be relevant since this video is already almost a month old, so I’d like this new vid to be up by next week. (We don’t wanna be like “Remember that video you guys put out six months ago? No? Oh. Well we responded to it anyway.)  As such, the ideal deadline is Sunday to get your vids in, with the leeway of up to Thursday night.

Thank you and get filming!

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…and introducing Smegma Boy!

Hello readers, I’m MaNishtana.

Now, I’m not really the gloating type, but when I call things, I call ’em.  So I’d just like to take out the time right now to say I told you so.

For those of you not in on the loop, right now an anti-circumcision bill is on the table in San Fran which would ban circumcision for males under the age of 18 and carry a fine of $1,000 and up to one year in prison.

As if this weren’t anti-Semitic/Islamic enough, now the forces of anti-circumcision also have a superheroic avenger: the ludicrously named Foreskin Man.

Yes, that’s right.  Foreskin.  Man. (Let’s not even get into one of his villians,Monster Mohel.  And honestly wtf is the creator getting these “Jewish” names from? “Yerik”? “Jorah”?? What the hell is a “Jorah”?  On a side note, I DO enjoy the art, however.  Reminds me of an early Ed Benes.  But I digress.)

Now, as someone who’s collected and continues to collect varied forms of comic-hero fare, I can tell you first hand that there’s already more than enough superheroic characters out there with vaguely sexual names.

Oneg the Prober.  Angar the Screamer.  Black Goliath. Zippermouth.  Night Thrasher.  Hump.  Iron Fist. Miss Fingers.  Left Hand.  Jackhammer.  Blowhard.  Bi-Beast.  Lady Flash.

But “Foreskin Man”?  C’mon now.  That’s just lazy.

And what, pray tell, would Foreskin Man’s powers be?  Well not invulnerability (as the character seems to have) since all the Anti-Cutters have made it a point to declare that circumcision removes sensitivity.  So apparently he’d be even MORE sensitive to damage.  Maybe he has an ability to leap slightly higher.  Or a slightly deeper voice.  Or the ability to attract one/third of the women Circumsized Man does.

Oh wait, you didn’t hear about that part?  So, yeah apparently women prefer circumsized penises at about a 3:1 ratio.  Hmmm.  All of a sudden this Anti-Cut movement makes sense.

It’s just a bunch of lamer circumsized dudes who haven’t been able to get laid, hoping to even out the score by convincing the good-looking dudes to stay in Anteater-ville, thereby cutting their competition down by two-thirds.

Genius, really.

And the plot thins.

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Black HYPHEN!! Jewish, Part II: Rabbi Enan Francis Responds!

Previously on “Black HYPHEN Jewish”…:

As you might’ve recalled, about a month ago, I, MaNishtana, posted a blog giving my commentary on an interview published by the New Jersey Jewish News on Rabbi Enan Francis.

It was reposted several times over across Facebook and sparked many many comments, discussions, and dialogues over the past month, both on Facebook and here on MaNishtana.net.  It was a piece I was proud of, stand by, and not at all regretful for.

And then the plot thickened.

See, last night, as I was moderating this here site, I was notified that a new member had joined.  That new member was none other than…Rabbi Enan Francis.  Undoubtedly, news of the blog had reached his ears, so presumably, he stopped on by to see what all the hubbub was about.

Not an hour later, I received a second notification, this time of a new user blog that was awaiting approval.  It, too, was from Rabbi Francis:

Dear MaNishtana,

I have always been a fan of your analytical responses and have often found your answers anchored firmly in logic; therefore I would like to make four comments in response to your criticism.

1) In reflection to my comment about whether racism exists in the context of Judaism you have made a strong and acceptable case. I do not suffer from any form hubris that precludes me from admitting when I’ve been bested and insulting to the real experiences of those marginalized by our brethren. Considering that the Jewish people are highly assimilated in what our Rabbis of saintly memory, call the mentality of exile, referring to the acculturation of our people to secular culture; to say that racism doesn’t exist would logically be akin to stating that racism whether de`jure or de`facto didn’t exist globally when it certainly does. I would even go on further to say that it quite probable that my words were shaped by those who struggled to give me that security to succeed in my social context.

2) Regarding my “penchant” for recasting my lineage based on the testimony of someone whom you claim has spoken to me: I find that to be an unsubstantiated attack which only sensationalized what I thought was a very honest and supported critique of the article.

3) If you ever see me on the street kindly say hello and introduce your self.

4) I would like to invite you to my house for Shabbos to continue this conversation and give at least an equal amount of attention to the powers of our Neshoma’s, which I hope will always be the dominant feature in our identity.

Once again I apologies to anyone offended.

After reading, at first I was going to relegate this to a Facebook note or something.  But I decided it was unfair to sweep this post under the rug, as it were.  I believe in dialogues not one-sided stories, nor do I believe in manipulating data and events to come out being perceived as “the winner”.  It was only right–it was only proper–that i address this response and my reprisal to it in just as public a forum as I proclaimed my critique.

And so now, the conclusion of “Black HYPHEN Jewish”…:

1) In reflection to my comment about whether racism exists in the context of Judaism you have made a strong and acceptable case. I do not suffer from any form hubris that precludes me from admitting when I’ve been bested and insulting to the real experiences of those marginalized by our brethren. Considering that the Jewish people are highly assimilated in what our Rabbis of saintly memory, call the mentality of exile, referring to the acculturation of our people to secular culture; to say that racism doesn’t exist would logically be akin to stating that racism whether de`jure or de`facto didn’t exist globally when it certainly does. I would even go on further to say that it quite probable that my words were shaped by those who struggled to give me that security to succeed in my social context.

To this, I honestly have no response.  None is needed.  In fact, I thank you, Rabbi, for your ability to recognize cogent arguments and your capacity to accept stances which contradict your own without fear of mocking, taunting or gloating.  It is a fine quality for a Rosh Yeshiva to have, especially in a world where Rosh Yeshivas like this exist.  Your cognizance of the very real situation which exists for Jews of Color is greatly appreciated.

2) Regarding my “penchant” for recasting my lineage based on the testimony of someone whom you claim has spoken to me: I find that to be an unsubstantiated attack which only sensationalized what I thought was a very honest and supported critique of the article.

3) If you ever see me on the street kindly say hello and introduce your self.

4) I would like to invite you to my house for Shabbos to continue this conversation and give at least an equal amount of attention to the powers of our Neshoma’s, which I hope will always be the dominant feature in out identity.

As for these last comments, whether my statements were an “unsubstantiated sensational attack” is something we can argue about until the cows come home.  However, such a tedious he said/she said tete a tete would prove petty and unproductive and completely dismissive of the reconciliatory tone present in your response and the overall general Ahavat Yisrael we are both trying to achieve. I am perfectly content to dismiss any past that may or may not exist between us and start completely anew.  I greatly look forward to an opportunity to spend Shabbat with you, and to reintroduce ourselves to one another.

More importantly, I enjoy the idea that there is now an Orthodox Rabbi here at MaNishtana’s Musings who will now be able to input his opinion on things.  And secondly, I’m glad this exchange happened, because maybe some people have forgotten, but dialogue like THIS is precisely why I blog.

I’m not trying to “win” anything or just arbitrarily tear people down or “prove” them “wrong”.

There IS a point to what I do.  And this is it.

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Black Jewish History Month: Sammy Davis, Jr.

Well I’m MaNishtana kids, and it’s been a fun month, but what better way to end it than the Black Jewish equivalent of Rick-Rolling: Mr. Sammy Davis, Jr.

I know, I know.  A lot of you are cringing.  The truth is a lot of JOCs are as enthusiastic about claiming Sammy as Black folk are overwhelmingly proud that Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for playing a slave (which is STILL a lot more deserving and respectable than Halle Berry winning one for playing a whore.  Sorry.  I meant…No…No, I meant “whore’).

But at the end of the day, no one can deny that Sammy made a major introduction of Jews of Color into the mainstream public eye.  And for that, today in Black Jewish History Month: Sammy Davis, Jr.

How Are YOU Jewish: Convert

Samuel George “Sammy” Davis, Jr. was an American entertainer.

Primarily a dancer and singer, Davis was a childhood vaudevillian who became known for his performances on Broadway and in Las Vegas, as a recording artist, television and film star, and as a member of Frank Sinatra’s “Rat Pack”.

At the age of three Davis began his career in vaudeville with his father and “uncle” as the Will Mastin Trio, toured nationally, and after military service, returned to the trio. Davis became an overnight sensation following a nightclub performance at Ciro’s after the 1951 Academy Awards, with the trio, became a recording artist, and made his first film performances as an adult later that decade. Losing his left eye in a car accident in 1954, he converted to Judaism and appeared in the first Rat Pack movie, Ocean’s 11, in 1960. After a starring role on Broadway in 1956’s Mr Wonderful, Davis returned to the stage in 1964’s Golden Boy, and in 1966 had his own TV variety show, The Sammy Davis Jr. Show. Davis’s career slowed in the late sixties, but he had a hit record with “The Candy Man”, in 1972, and became a star in Las Vegas.

As an African American, Davis was the victim of racism throughout his life, and was a large financial supporter of civil rights causes. Davis had a complex relationship with the black community, and attracted criticism after physically embracing Richard Nixon in 1970. One day on a golf course with Jack Benny, he was asked what his handicap was. “Handicap?” he asked. “Talk about handicap — I’m a one-eyed Negro Jew.” This was to become a signature comment, recounted in his autobiography, and in countless articles.

After reuniting with Sinatra and Dean Martin in 1987, Davis toured with them and Liza Minnelli internationally, before dying of throat cancer in 1990.

Davis was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP, and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award for his television performances. He was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1987, and in 2001, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Samuel George Davis, Jr. was born in New York City, New York, to Sammy Davis, Sr., an African-American entertainer, and Elvera Sanchez,a tap dancer. During his lifetime, Davis, Jr. stated that his mother was Puerto Rican and born in San Juan; however, in the 2003 biography In Black and White, author Wil Haygood writes that Davis, Jr.’s mother was born in New York City to Cuban American parents, and that Davis, Jr. claimed he was Puerto Rican because he feared anti-Cuban backlash would hurt his record sales.

Davis’s parents were vaudeville dancers. As an infant, he was raised by his paternal grandmother. When he was three years old, his parents separated. His father, not wanting to lose custody of his son, took him on tour. Davis learned to dance from his father and his “uncle” Will Mastin, who led the dance troupe his father worked for. Davis joined the act as a child and they became the Will Mastin Trio. Throughout his career, Davis included the Will Mastin Trio in his billing. Mastin and his father shielded him from racism. Snubs were explained as jealousy, for instance. When Davis served in the United States Army during World War II, however, he was confronted by strong racial prejudice.

Davis, Jr. was hired to sing the title track for the Universal Pictures film Six Bridges to Cross, recording it on December 2, 1954.

The Army assigned Davis to an integrated entertainment Special Services unit, and he found that the spotlight lessened the prejudice. After his discharge at the war’s end, Davis rejoined the family dance act, which played at clubs around Portland, Oregon. He began to achieve success on his own and was singled out for praise by critics, releasing several albums. This led to his appearance in the Broadway play Mr. Wonderful in 1956.

In 1959, Davis became a member of the famous “Rat Pack”, led by his friend Frank Sinatra, which included fellow performers such as Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, and Shirley MacLaine. Initially, Sinatra called the gathering “the Clan”, but Sammy voiced his opposition, saying that it reminded people of the racist Ku Klux Klan. Sinatra renamed the group “the Summit”, but the media referred to them as the Rat Pack.

Davis was a headliner at The Frontier Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, but he was required (as were all black performers in the 1950s) to lodge in a rooming house on the west side of the city, instead of in the hotels as his white colleagues did. No dressing rooms were provided for black performers, and they had to wait outside by the swimming pool between acts.

During his early years in Las Vegas, Davis and other African-American artists could entertain, but usually could not stay at the hotels where they performed, gamble in the casinos, nor dine or drink in the hotel restaurants and bars. Davis later refused to work at places which practiced racial segregation. His demands would lead to the integration of Miami Beach nightclubs and Las Vegas casinos, an accomplishment for which Davis justly took pride.

Davis nearly died in an automobile accident on November 19, 1954 in San Bernardino, California, as he was making a return trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. The accident occurred at a fork in U.S. Highway 66 at Cajon Blvd and Kendall Drive. Davis lost his left eye as a result, and wore an eye patch for at least six months following the accident. He appeared on What’s My Linewearing the patch. Later, he was fitted for a glass eye, which he wore for the rest of his life. While in the hospital, his friend Eddie Cantor told him about the similarities between the Jewish and black cultures. Prompted by this conversation, Davis — who was born to a Catholic mother and Protestant father — began studying the history of Jews and converted to Judaism several years later. One passage from his readings, describing the endurance of the Jewish people, intrigued him in particular: “The Jews would not die. Three millennia of prophetic teaching had given them an unwavering spirit of resignation and had created in them a will to live which no disaster could crush”. In many ways, the accident marked a turning point in Davis’s career, taking him from a well-known entertainer to a national celebrity and icon.

This is Black Jewish History Month at Manishtana’s Musings.

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Black Jewish History Month: Shyne

Today in Black Jewish History Month, Shyne

How Are YOU Jewish: Matrilineal

Moshe Levi Ben-David (born Jamal Michael Barrow), better known by his stage name Shyne, is a Belizean Orthodox Jewish rapper.

Shyne was born in Belize City, Belize, the son of Frances Franklin, and Dean Barrow, the current Prime Minister of Belize. Shyne has only reluctantly acknowledged him as his father, due to his father publicly stating that Shyne was “unwanted”. His mother is the sister of Michael Finnegan, one of Barrow’s long-time political colleagues. Shyne remained behind with his uncle in Belize City when his mother moved to the US. It was not until the age of 13 when she was able to bring him with her to Brooklyn’s Vanderveer Estates in East Flatbush (now known as ‘Flatbush Gardens’).

In 1998, while Shyne was freestyling in a barbershop with friend J.CABA, hip hop producer Clark Kent noticed something unique in Shyne’s voice. He sounded to him eerily similar to the late Notorious B.I.G.. At the time, Clark Kent was working on B.I.G.’s posthumous “Born Again” album.

Not long after, Shyne started making appearances on recordings made by Bad Boy Records artists. He notably featured on a remix of Total’s “Sittin At Home” track and on Mase’s second album Double Up, on the track entitled “From Scratch”. In the same year he featured on Bad Boy Records’ chief executive Sean Combs’ Forever album (Reverse), as well as on a remix of P.E. 2000.

December 27, 1999, Shyne, who was with Sean Combs and Combs’ then girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, was involved in a shooting at a Manhattan club which left three people injured. As a result the 23-year-old rapper, whose debut album was pending release, was charged with and convicted of attempted murder, assault, and reckless endangerment. This led to rumours about Shyne’s position at Bad Boy records and doubts about whether his debut album was ever going to be released.

On June 1, 2001, Shyne was sentenced to ten years in prison.[He began serving his sentence at the maximum security prison Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. This seemed to spell the end of his rap career and his legal team’s attempts to appeal for a suspended sentence ultimately failed. Rumors that he had severed all ties with Sean Combs and Bad Boy Records proved later to be true.

He had his name legally changed, in early March 2006, from his birthname of Jamal Michael Barrow to Moses Michael Levi to reflect his mother’s Jewish heritage. Just days later he was in court again to challenge New York’s application of the ‘Son of Sam’ law, a law which resulted in his assets being frozen and limiting his ability to line up record deals and remain profitable. He and his lawyers argued that allowing him to make deals with record producers would also increase the value of a potential settlement with the victims involved in the night club shooting.

Despite his ordeal, his incarceration drew many sympathizers, as well as the admiration of many in the hip hop community. His adherence to the code of silence, which he made reference to numerous times on his self-titled debut album, earned him a hardcore reputation in both the prison community as well as on the streets. Even while incarcerated, his name continued to be linked with several record labels.

However, he was not without his detractors; fellow New York rapper 50 Cent even went so far as to call him a punk and made light of his situation and his involvement in the “night club incident”. Shyne responded in kind on his 2004 release Godfather Buried Alive, with a track entitled “For the Record”.

On February 16, 2010, Shyne signed a seven figure deal with Def Jam Records. Gangland & Messiah, are scheduled to be released on April 5, 2011, and they will be his first studio albums since his release from prison.

This is Black Jewish History Month at MaNishtana’s Musings.

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Black Jewish History Month: Lauren London

Today in Black Jewish History Month, Lauren London.

How Are YOU Jewish: Patrilineal

Lauren Nicole London is an American film and television actress, model, and occasional music video actress. Beginning her career in music videos and later transitioning into film and television, London earned recognition for her performances in the film ATL as well as the television shows90210 and Entourage. Along with her acting career, London is also a spokesmodel for the Sean John women’s collection.

London was born in Los Angeles, California to an African American mother and a Jewish father. After attending Palisades High School, Lauren was home schooled, giving her time to audition for films, music videos and commercials. Lauren London dated rapper Lil Wayne on and off for about 5 years. On September 9, 2009, Lauren gave birth to a baby boy named Kameron Carter, son of rapper Lil Wayne.

London had made appearances in music videos by artists such as Tyrese, Ludacris, Pharrell, and Snoop Dogg. Her breakout year came in 2006, where she made her television debut in the“Everybody Hates Funerals” episode of the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. That same year, London landed her first film role as well, playing hip hop artist T.I.’s romantic lead in the film ATL. For her work, London was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the year’s Black Movie Awards. In 2007, London landed a role on the HBO comedy series Entourage, playing the character Turtle’s (Jerry Ferrara) love interest. Later, based on her performance in ATL, London was given her role in 2007’s This Christmas without having to audition. London, along with pop/R&B singers Cassie and Asia Nitollano, became one of the spokesmodels for the Sean John women’s collection in 2007 as well. In 2008, London landed the role of the character Christina in the first season of the show90210, originally thought to be a possible romantic interest of Tristan Wilds’ character Dixon Wilson. London’s next film role was the character Ivy in the 2009 release Next Day Air. The same year, she played the character Cammy Alcott in the Chris Columbus film I Love You Beth Cooper. London has appeared on the cover of such magazines as Jewel and King as well.

London is returning to films since the birth of her son. She will appeared in Tyler Perry’s new movieMadea’s Big Happy Family, which is scheduled to be released on April 22, 2011. She will play Renee, Bow Wow’s girlfriend as been reported.

This is Black Jewish History Month at Manishtana’s Musings.

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Black Jewish History Month: Yavilah McCoy

Today in Black Jewish History Month,Yavilah McCoy.

How Are YOU Jewish: Matrilineal, Patrilineal, Frum-From-Birth

Yavilah McCoy, an African-American Jew, is the founder of Ayecha, a nonprofit organization providing educational resources for Jewish Diversity and advocacy for Jews of Color in the United States. She is a teacher, writer, editor, and diversity consultant. She has taught Judaic studies, Hebrew, and English literature in elementary and secondary schools.


In 2008, after directing Ayecha for eight years, Yavilah assumed the New England directorship of The Curriculum Initiative, (TCI), a non-profit educational consultancy that services close to 600 prep schools across the nation. Within TCI, McCoy works to expand awareness of Jewish identity and culture and empowers students to contextualize their Jewish journeys within the framework of leadership, citizenship, and pursuit of excellence in education.

In 2009, Yavilah McCoy co-wrote and performed “The Colors of Water,” an original theatrical piece that tells the story of the four generations of her African-American Jewish family, as part of Mayyim Hayyim’s Living Waters International Mikveh Conference in Newton, Massachusetts.

In a 2010 article, featured in the New Vilna Review, McCoy described what inspired her to create this piece:

“I have been an educator and activist within the Jewish professional community for close to twelve years now, and am constantly compelled and inspired by the potential for transformative change that diversity and inclusion work propels forward when it is done with grace, intention, forethought and an eye toward practical applicability. In writing this script with Anita Diamant and Janet Buchwald, I found an opportunity to share the unique experience of a multi-generational African-American Jewish family, and the faith and challenges that four different women experienced in regard to their Jewish communal participation and inclusion. This happens to be the story of the women in my matriarchal line, but the truth is that this could be the story of any Jewish family navigating the margins of community, and looking for an entry point that values both their diversity, history and their hope for a new Jewish future. The Colors of Water provides an exciting evening of edutainment, with moments that make the audience laugh, cry, and sit at the edge of their seats wondering where the journey will take us next.”

McCoy attended Jewish elementary and high schools, and studied at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

McCoy’s great-grandmother on her mother’s side, was inspired by the Bible to seek a relationship with [God]] that did not require her to go through a white Jesus to find salvation. “So she took off the shackle of Christianity, so to speak, and took on the religion of Israel,” McCoy said. “All she had to guide her was the Bible, so my great-grandmother developed an appreciation for the ethics and morality found in the stories of the people of Israel, and her songs were the songs of David.”

The family moved to Brownsville in Brooklyn, where Jews and blacks lived side by side. She says: “As a labor union organizer, my grandfather developed friendships with Jews and began to take on Jewish practices. While raising my mother’s family, he learned about kosher and observing the Jewish holidays. He would wear a yarmulke during labor actions and identified as a Jew among his colleagues. In the 1940s and ’50s, there were a number of people of color who identified with Judaism in Brownsville, many for similar reasons as those that drew my grandmother to the faith of the people of Israel in the ’20s and ’30s. When my grandfather met my grandmother, she took on his way of life and they raised my mother and her six siblings in the Brownsville community.”

McCoy’s father attended an Orthodox Yeshivah and converted to Orthodox Judaism in his early 20s. He later married her mother, who converted to Orthodox observance as well. McCoy and five siblings were raised in an Orthodox Jewish home in the East Flatbush and Crown Heights areas of Brooklyn.

Yavilah McCoy founded and directed Ayecha for eight years. With offices in New York City and St. Louis, Ayecha provided training and educational resources for building greater sensitivity toward differences in the Jewish community. The organization also served as a support group and network for Jews of color and multiracial families. McCoy says: “Ayecha taught people how to understand their Judaism through the lens of race, age, gender and economic status. When most people think of Jewish, they think white and they think European. But Jews of color have been alive and well for thousands of years in parts of the world. McCoy said recent research estimates that there are about 20,000 Jews of color in the United States. In 2009, when asked by the Forward how she felt about being a representative for Jews of color, McCoy acknowledged her own accomplishments but also underscored the need for increased visibility and representation, within the media and Jewish leadership, of a spectrum of Jews of Color:

“I’ve stepped back from being “the one,” because in a way I had become an icon of this work. The idea of associating diversity with a person as opposed to it being a movement within the Jewish community was starting to bother me. So, I made the decision about a year ago to spend more of my time supporting fellow Jewish leaders of color so that when the conversation re-emerged, it would be a conversation along the lines of, maybe, 10 different stories instead of one.”

In 2010, when interviewed by the New Vilna Review, McCoy stated that present challenges to the Jewish community include the challenge of racism:

“One challenge that I address in [The Colors of Water] is racism. By virtue of the valuable strides that Jews in America have made since our initial immigration to these shores, we and our children are not as deeply connected to the issues of race and class that our history in this country ought to make us vested change agents against. We do a great job of celebrating the heroes among our ranks who marched in the Civil Rights movement and worked to make equal rights a constitutional reality, but in many cases, we have neglected the every-day work of not taking privilege and societal access for granted and doing what we can in our personal lives to stay connected to the issues of oppression that still plague so many other identity groups in our country. My Judaism fuels my connection to these issues, and it is my hope that through this show I can share some of the ways that my African-American family has been inspired to work for change through the Torah and Jewish tradition.”

McCoy’s husband is also African-American and Jewish, and the couple keeps kosher in their suburban Boston home with their four children, who attend a local Jewish day school.

This is Black Jewish History Month at Manishtana’s Musings.

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Black Jewish History Month: Yaphet Kotto

Today in Black Jewish History Month, Yaphet Kotto.

How Are YOU Jewish: Patrilineal, Matrilineal

Yaphet Frederick Kotto is an American actor, known for numerous film roles, and his starring role in the NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street.

Kotto was born in New York City, the son of Gladys Marie, a nurse and army officer, and Avraham Kotto (originally named Njoki Manga Bell), a businessman from Cameroon.  Kotto’s father, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s, was, according to Kotto, an observant Jew who spoke Hebrew, and Kotto’s mother reportedly converted to Judaism before marrying his father.  Kotto has said that his paternal family originated from Israel and migrated to Egypt and then Cameroon, and have been African Jews for many generations.

Being Black and Jewish gave other children even more reason, he has said, to pick on him growing up in New York City. “It was rough coming up,” Kotto said. “And then going to shul, putting a yarmulke on, having to face people who were primarily Baptists in the Bronx meant that on Fridays, I was in some heavy fistfights”.

By the age of 16, he was studying acting at the Actor’s Mobile Theater Studio, and at 19, he made his professional acting debut in Othello. He also was a member of the Actors Studio in New York. Kotto got his start in acting on Broadway, where he appeared in The Great White Hope, among other productions.

His film debut was in 1963 in an uncredited role in 4 For Texas. He performed in Nothing But a Man in 1964 and played a supporting role in the 1968 caper film The Thomas Crown Affair. He played John Auston, a confused Marine Lance Corporal, in the 1968 episode “King Of The Hill” on the first season of Hawaii Five-O. In 1973 he landed the role of the James Bond villain Mr. Big inLive and Let Die, as well as roles in Across 110th Street and Truck Turner. Kotto portrayed Idi Amin Dada in the 1977 television film Raid on Entebbe. He also starred as an auto worker in the 1978 film Blue Collar.

The following year he played Parker in the sci-fi–horror film Alien. He followed with a supporting role in the 1980 prison drama Brubaker. In 1983, he guest-starred as mobster “Charlie” in the A-Team episode “The Out-of-Towners”. In 1987, he appeared in the futuristic sci-fi movie The Running Man and in the 1988 action-comedy Midnight Run, in which he portrayed Alonzo Mosely, an FBI agent.

He played Lieutenant Al Giardello in the television series Homicide: Life on the Street.

He has written two books: Royalty, and The Second Coming of Christ, and also wrote scripts forHomicide: Life on the Street.

This is Black Jewish History Month at Manishtana’s Musings.

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Black Jewish History Month: Khleo Thomas

Today in Black Jewish History Month, Khleo Thomas.

How Are YOU Jewish: Matrilineal

Khaleed Leon Thomas is an American actor, rapper, singer, and entertainer best known for his role as Zero in Holes and Mixed Mike in Roll Bounce. Khleo also starred in other films like Walking Tall starring Dwayne Johnson in 2004 and Remember the Daze starring Amber Heard in 2007. Khleo is currently working on a new album entitled “Just A Sample” where he is mentioned to collaborate with different individual artist including his close friend and musical companion, Bow Wow.

Thomas was born in Anchorage, Alaska, the son of Raquel and Leon Thomas, the latter of whom is an army officer who at the time was stationed in Alaska. Khleo’s mother is a Jewish immigrant from Morocco and his father is African-American. After living in Germany, the family returned to the United States when he was four. He has three younger siblings, Khadeem, Khameel, and Khaleea.

When Khleo was four years old, he saw a television commercial and decided to pursue an acting career, which was encouraged by his mother. Thomas’ first television appearance was on an episode of Bill Cosby’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things”, and he has since starred in such films as “Holes”, “Friday After Next”,”Going to the Mat”, “Walking Tall” and “Roll Bounce”. During production, his fellow actors sometimes call him “Lil’ Khlee Khlee.” He guest-starred in Poppin’ Tags, an episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” in 2006. He also co-starred in the first episode of the television series “Teachers”, which was canceled after six episodes. He was in the main roles of movies such as Hurricane Season & Remember the Daze. Khleo currently is starring in the upcoming films “Boogie Town” and “Krews”.

This is Black Jewish History Month at Manishtana’s Musings.

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Black Jewish History Month: George Stiebel

Today in Black Jewish History Month, George Stiebel.

How Are YOU Jewish: Patrilineal

 There was every indication at a very early age that George Stiebel was destined to lead an intriguing life. Born to a Jamaican housekeeper, and a German Jew in the 1820s, George was subject to a range of criticisms and harsh treatment from his peers as a result of his mixed parentage. School was therefore not as fulfilling an experience as it should have been, and he quit the classroom at age fourteen to become a carpenter’s apprentice. George quickly developed a flair for carpentry, and by age 19 he played an integral role in the reconstruction of the famous Ferry Inn, between Kingston and Spanish Town.

In the 1840’s, George’s father gave him start up capital to purchase a ship, which he began using to transport cargo between North and South America. Shortly after, he purchased two additional ships to develop his new business venture in the Caribbean, including Cuba, where a revolution was in high gear. He realized that the island would be ideal to undertake a lucrative gun-trading ring. While he did manage to make respectable profits from trading guns, he also fell in trouble with the law for his activities.

In 1851, George’s life took a turn for the better when he married long time sweetheart Magdalene Baker, daughter of a Moravian Missionary. Soon after their son, Sigismund, named after George’s father, was born. Two years later a girl, Theresa, joined the Stiebel family. Five years after his marriage, Stiebel’s ships were caught in a terrible storm, which destroyed the vessels. Stiebel was aboard one of the ships which sank off the coast of Venezuela, and he managed to survive the wreckage.  Luckily he had the foresight to secure all his money in a leather belt. Shortly after arriving in Venezuela, he became a peddler, and with his savings he purchased a mule to assist in transporting his goods.

His misfortune at sea quickly dulled when he began trading gold in Venezuela. He invested in a gold mine with his friends, and fifteen years later in 1873 the business was showing huge profits. Stiebel had undoubtedly made an impressive stake in the gold mining business and the accolade awarded to him as Jamaica’s first millionaire of African descent seemed very deserving and appropriate. His achievements were shattered however with the death of his son, and he returned home to Jamaica.

Stiebel’s love for his country and sense of civic duty ignited almost immediately after his return to Jamaica. It is reported that he purchased 99 properties (it was illegal to own 100 properties during the period) including two sugar estates, a wharf at Church Street, Great Salt Pond and a Cattle Pen named Minard, in St. Ann.

He built a lavish home at Minard, which became the family’s favorite vacation getaway. In 1881 he commissioned the services of contractor Charles P. Lazarus to build the magnificent Devon House. The house boasted a library, gaming room, ballroom, sitting rooms, a sewing room, dining room, and several bedrooms. The kitchen (now occupied by the Brick Oven) was located towards the back away from the House.

In addition to investing in property in Jamaica, Stiebel was a philanthropist, assisting the poor and disadvantaged, as well as exhibiting continuous interest in the socio-economic state of the country. Several civic authorities and local groups invited Stiebel to sit on their Boards including the Jamaica Permanent Benefit Society, the Jamaica Co-Operative Fruit Insurance Company, the Board of Education and the Kingston and St. Andrew Union Poorhouse. Stiebel’s most noted civic duty came when he was named a Justice of the Peace (JP) and later Custos of St. Andrew. It was during his tenure as Custos that the Great Exhibition of 1891 was staged in Kingston. The Exhibition, which sought to introduce tourism to the island, required extensive financing which the government was unable to undertake. Stiebel was among a small group of entrepreneurs who loaned the Government funds to stage the exhibition. In recognition of his services in the interest of the island, Her Majesty the Queen bestowed on Stiebel the honor of Companion of the Most Distinguished Order (C.M.G.).

Over the next ten years George Stiebel lived happily at Devon House with his wife Magdalene, and surrounded by his grandchildren. The Stiebels also did an impressive job of holding lavish parties for friends and family. It was not surprising then that they employed a large staff which reportedly included four gardeners, two house maids, a butler, cook, laundress, grooms and coachman. Servants’ quarters were located in the space now used as the property’s commercial complex.

Sadness again befell Devon House when Stiebel’s wife Magdalene died in October 1892. Magdalene was buried at the St. Andrew Parish Cemetery under a grey granite tombstone with a white marble cross-wreathed in white marble flowers. It is said that at the time Stiebel imported enough grey granite from Scotland to bury his entire family. Tragedy continued to mark the Stiebel family, for in 1895 his grandson Douglas died of typhoid, and only a week later his son in law Richard Hill Jackson (who served as Mayor of Kingston) passed away.

George Stiebel died in 1896 at age 75. Stiebel’s generous spirit lived on even after his death, as he ensured that his family was well taken care of. His daughter was granted an annual annuity of three thousand pounds, and she was assured a permanent place at Devon House while she was alive. A total of ten thousand pounds was to be allotted to each of his grandchildren once they turned 21. The Stiebel- Jacksons occupied Devon House until 1922 following the death of Theresa Stiebel- Jackson.

This is Black Jewish History Month at Manishtana’s Musings.

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