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Sorry, But I Don’t Need You To Tell Me About African Jews

It never fails. At least once a month, but many times two or four times a month, I get an email from a Jewish friend that has a link to an article or a video about Jews in Africa. Yesterday it was an email about Jews in Nigeria. Let me tell you, it took a lot of willpower for me to not respond. I don’t feel enlightened by these emails…not the least. In fact, I find in condescending and inappropriate mainly for the reasons listed below:

#1. I already have knowledge about Jews in the continent of Africa. Even if I didn’t, I am an intelligent, college-educated person who knows how to research these topics on my own; if they should interest me. I don’t need you to educate me about “my people” (or so you perceive).

#2. Just because I’m Black does not mean I have a deep, strong connection to Africans. I am proud of my African ancestry and the culture that has been bequeathed upon me via Africa. However the dreaded institution of slavery has robbed me of any knowledge regarding where exactly my ancestors came from. Africa is a big place - a continent with many different peoples. I’m not about to blindly embrace all of them as being “mine”. Do Hispanic individuals embrace all of Latin America? Yes there is an acknowledgement of shared roots. But that’s as far as it goes. I have no desire to claim ownership in cultures that I may have no rights to (I have enough cultures that I DO know about that I can claim…which is fine by me).

#3. The division among Jews along racial classifications disgusts me; and emails like this just add to the problem. Jews make up only 0.2% of the world’s population. We are the smallest of minorities. So what good does it do to divide ourselves up even more? By perpetuating terms like “African Jew”, “Sephardi Jew”, “Indian Jew”, etc., you diminish a person’s Jewishness and hone in on their race. The Torah clearly shows us that the nation of Israel is made of of ethnically diverse individuals…and always has been. So why is it that 5 millennia later, we haven’t just become one Jewish nation?

#4. There are some exceptions, but the vast majority of these articles and films tend to be incredibly patronizing.  Too often the tone is along the lines of “Oh wow; look at these primitive Africans and look at their attempt to live like Jews in their part of the world”. Hardly ever are they approached in the sense of being closer and truer to Judaism as practiced by the patriarchs. Instead their knowledge of Judaism is minimized because they haven’t been exposed to the Talmud. 

So just to wrap up my rant here; unless I specifically asked for a link — or if you are a well-read expert on the subject….don’t send me any stories about Jews in Africa.  It will just get deleted.