Lani Guinier drew on her Black and Jewish roots in a life of outspoken activism

Posted in Articles, Biography, Judaism, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Social Justice, United States, Women on 2022-01-11 15:30Z by Steven

Lani Guinier drew on her Black and Jewish roots in a life of outspoken activism

Forward
2022-01-07

TaRessa Stovall

This undated file photo shows Lani Guinier(C), President Clinton’s nominee to head the U.S. Civil Rights office of the U.S.
LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images

Lani Guinier, the daughter of a white Jewish mother and Black Panamanian father whose nomination by President Clinton to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice was opposed by mainstream Jewish organizations, died on Friday.

Guinier, who went on to become the first Black woman on the Harvard Law School faculty as well as its first woman of color given a tenured post, succumbed to complications from Alzheimer’s disease, according to The Boston Globe.

Carrie Johnson, who covers the Justice Department for National Public Radio, tweeted a message from Harvard Law School Dean John Manning confirming Guinier’s death and praising her.

“Her scholarship changed our understanding of democracy – of why and how the voices of the historically underrepresented must be heard and what it takes to have a meaningful right to vote,” Manning’s message said. The dean’s letter to the school community said she died surrounded by friends and family…

Read the entire article here.

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Who’s Afraid of Lani Guinier?

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Judaism, Law, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, United States on 2022-01-11 15:17Z by Steven

Who’s Afraid of Lani Guinier?

The New York Times Magazine
1994-02-27

Lani Guinier

For a late April day in Washington, the air was remarkably soft. The sun-splashed courtyard of the Department of Justice seemed a reflection of the glow surrounding Attorney General Janet Reno. She had just returned from a successful venture to Capitol Hill, where she faced down a committee upset about the recent confrontation with the Branch Davidians. I stood with six other Justice Department nominees to be presented to the public. In what we were told was a last-minute decision, the President himself was to make the presentations. We gathered in the hallway next to the courtyard stage and were lined up in the order we would be introduced. We were given our instructions, and then the President arrived.

The President had a regal bearing. I remember he was wearing a beautifully tailored blue suit. As he strode down the row of nervous nominees he greeted each of us in his typically physical style. He grasped my hand, congratulated me and kissed me lightly on the cheek. As he moved to the others I remember overhearing one of the nominees pass on a greeting from an old friend from Arkansas. The President stepped back and said, with a wistful look in his eye: “I remember Steve. That was when I had a real life.” And I remember the nominee’s response: “Mr. President, this is real life.”

As we were introduced there were cheers and signs saying “Atta girl, Janet!” and the like. I saw many old friends from the Civil Rights Division, where I had worked during the Carter Administration, giving the thumbs-up and smiling. I had not been back in the courtyard in 12 years, and now here I was accepting the nomination to head the Civil Rights Division…

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On Passing and Not Trying to Pass

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion on 2021-12-14 02:52Z by Steven

On Passing and Not Trying to Pass

My Jewish Learning
2015-07-22

Tema Smith

I am black, and I am Jewish.

I’ve always found comfort in the and of my identity — that simple part of speech that joins together two disparate things: two families, two histories, two cultures, two heritages, two skin colors, two lineages of trauma, two pathways to North America. As the offspring of both, I am equally neither.

Lately, I spend a lot of time within the proverbial “walls” of the organized Jewish community. As a Jewish professional, my day-to-day life is dedicated to synagogue operations — specifically, membership and communications. While in many ways I am “at home” in the Jewish community, to this day I still feel out of place within the communal mainstream. And, contradictory as it may seem, it is the fact that I can easily pass for the Ashkenazi majority that leaves me feeling this way.

I should say: I never asked to pass. The fact that I can walk into Jewish settings and instantly fit in leaves me with a bad taste. At the same time, I remember recognizing my own thoughts when I read Katya Gibel Azoulay quote her son in her seminal book, Black, Jewish, and Interracial: It’s Not the Color of Your Skin, but the Race of Your Kin, and Other Myths of Identity: “I’m not going to put up a sign that says I’m black just to be accepted,” she relays, writing, “as far as he was concerned, the idea of ‘learning how to act Black’ was the theater of the absurd.”…

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Black Judaism

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Justice, United States on 2021-11-15 16:06Z by Steven

Black Judaism

The St. Louis American
2021-11-12

Danielle Brown, Reporter

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein’s book “The Disordered Cosmos” was inspired by a collection of essays she wrote addressing how race, gender and bias shape how science is done specifically in physics and astronomy. She said it was based on writing she did online and for some print publications. However, she said the book transformed into what she always dreamed of doing as a teenager, which was to write a book about particle physics and astronomy for people from her community.

Black authors’ works about astronomy, domestic violence featured in Jewish book fest

Judaism faith believers and individuals curious about religion can attend this year’s 43rd Annual St. Louis Jewish Book Fest virtually or in person at the Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex in Creve Coeur.

Ross’ book “Playing Dead” narrates how the marriage to her high school sweetheart became a horrific nightmare that resulted in domestic violence, abuse, endless stalking, and a traumatizing near-death experience.

The relationship became so toxic she moved her and their three kids from the house. She thought that was the right move to make for her and her children’s safety. Until one morning her husband Chris kidnapped her in front of their kids. He took her to the woods, raped her, beat her mercilessly in the head with a shovel and left her body in the woods assuming she was dead. She wasn’t, she played dead to get out alive…

Monique Faison Ross’ book “Playing Dead” narrates how the marriage to her high school sweetheart became a horrific nightmare that resulted in domestic violence, abuse, endless stalking, and a traumatizing near-death experience.

…Prescod-Weinstein’s book “The Disordered Cosmos” was inspired by a collection of essays she wrote addressing how race, gender and bias shape how science is done specifically in physics and astronomy. She said the book transformed into what she always dreamed of doing as a teenager, which was to write a book about particle physics and astronomy for people of her community.

“My point of view of the book is a holistic look at the doing of particle physics, the doing of astronomy,” she said. “Not just through the lens of what are the things we’re calculating, what are the ideas that we’re working through on a technical level, but how it works as a culture and a social phenomenon.” she said.

One of Prescod-Weinstein’s themes for her book is having the fundamental right to love the night sky. She said it comes from her mother, Margaret Prescod, a Black feminist with experience in organizing, who said people need to know there’s a universe beyond the bad things that are happening. She said her comment came after protests and unrest occurred following the murder of an African American killed by police…

Read the entire article here.

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Book Talk-Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

Posted in Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United Kingdom, United States, Videos on 2021-10-25 17:39Z by Steven

Book Talk-Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

American Jewish Historical Society
2021-08-04

Author Laura Arnold Leibman discusses her new book with Gender and Jewish Studies Professor, Samira K. Mehta. Hear how family heirlooms were used to unlock the mystery of the Moses’s Family ancestors in, Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family.

Tracing an extraordinary journey throughout the Atlantic World, Leibman examines artifacts left behind in Barbados, Suriname, London, Philadelphia, and New York, to show how Sarah and Isaac Moses were able to transform themselves and their lives, becoming free, wealthy, Jewish, and—at times—white. While their affluence made them unusual, their story mirrors that of the largely forgotten population of mixed African and Jewish ancestry that constituted as much as ten percent of the Jewish communities in which the siblings lived.

Watch the video (00:56:47) here.

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No Silence on Race

Posted in Articles, Canada, Interviews, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Justice on 2021-10-22 14:26Z by Steven

No Silence on Race

Be’chol Lashon
2021-10-19

Team Be’chol Lashon

No Silence on Race is a movement born of the necessity for both racial equity and inclusivity within Canadian Jewish spaces.

This month Periphery, an exhibition about Jews of Color (JOC) opened in Toronto, Canada. A collaboration between the group No Silence on Race and the Ontario Jewish Archives, Periphery shares the voices and faces of Canadian Jews who are often not seen in the mainstream presentations of Jewish life. We at Be’chol Lashon sat down with members of the No Silence on Race team to learn more about them and their work.

Team Be’chol Lashon: Tell us a little about yourselves

The No Silence on Race core team is Sara Yacobi-Harris, Akilah-Allen Silverstein and Yoni Belete. We are 3 young professionals based in Toronto, Canada…

Read the entire interview here.

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Born into slavery, they rose to be elite New York Jews. A new book tells their story.

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Judaism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2021-10-08 14:05Z by Steven

Born into slavery, they rose to be elite New York Jews. A new book tells their story.

Religion News Service
2021-10-05

Yonat Shimron, National Reporter and Senior Editor


Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family” and author Laura Arnold Leibman. Courtesy images

In her new book, ‘Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family,’ Laura Arnold Leibman shows that Jews were not only slave owners. They were also slaves.

(RNS) — Jews are proud of the biblical story from Exodus that recounts their deliverance from slavery in Egypt in the third century B.C.

But few U.S. Jews consider that some of their ancestors were slaves in the trans-Atlantic slave trade that ended in the 19th century.

In her new book, “Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multiracial Jewish Family,” Laura Arnold Leibman, a Reed College English professor, conclusively shows that Jews, who were typically thought of as white, were not only slave owners. They were also slaves.

Leibman does this by excavating the genealogies of Sarah and Isaac Lopez Brandon, siblings born in the late 18th century to a wealthy Barbadian Jewish businessman and an enslaved woman. The siblings eventually made it New York, where they were able to pass as white. They became accomplished and affluent members of New York City’s oldest Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel.

Sarah and Isaac’s father, Abraham Rodriguez Brandon, was a Sephardic Jew who traced his ancestry to the expulsion of Jews from Spain. He settled in Barbados as part of a Jewish community of between 400 and 500 families that worked on the island’s sugar plantations and refineries.

Brandon secured his children’s manumission fees, and in 1801 they became “free mulattos.” In Barbados, that still meant they could not vote or hold office, or for that matter be married in the island’s synagogue or buried in its cemetery.

But America was kinder to them. Both Sarah and Isaac immigrated to America and married into prominent and wealthy U.S. Jewish families while hiding their past. One granddaughter had no clue about their origins.

Religion News Service talked to Leibman about her discovery of the Brandon genealogy and what it means for the U.S. Jewish community to grapple with its multiracial past and present. The interview was edited for length and clarity…

Read the entire interview here.

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‘Black & Jewish Talk Series’ starts with ‘A Conversation’

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2021-10-07 19:11Z by Steven

‘Black & Jewish Talk Series’ starts with ‘A Conversation’

The Harvard Gazette
2021-02-18

Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite, Harvard Staff Writer

Exploring their identities through culture, politics, and religion

The Center for Jewish Studies and the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research debut Monday “Black & Jewish: A Conversation,” the first installment of a new joint venture to shed light on the multifaceted nature of Black and Jewish identities in North America.

“Black & Jewish” is the first of three scheduled events this semester in the “Black & Jewish Talk Series,” focused on culture, politics, and religion.

“There is a lot of focus on the relationship between Black communities and Jewish communities in the U.S., but Black and Jewish identity hasn’t received very much scholarly attention,” said Sara Feldman, a preceptor of Yiddish in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and a co-organizer of the series. “There are many people in the United States who identify as both Black and Jewish. It’s time that their voices are amplified here at Harvard.”

“Black and Jewish: A Conversation,” takes place with vocalist and composer Anthony Russell and Rebecca Pierce, a writer and filmmaker. The discussion will be moderated by Katya Gibel Mevorach, Professor of Anthropology and American Studies at Grinnell College, and will focus on how Jewish diversity is discussed in public life and how it can and should change…

Read the entire article here.

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Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Judaism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, Religion, Slavery, United States on 2021-10-07 15:45Z by Steven

Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

Oxford University Press
2021-08-30
320 Pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780197530474

Laura Arnold Leibman, Professor of English and Humanities
Reed College, Portland, Oregon

Highlights

  • Provides a rare historical portrait of life as a Jewish American of color
  • Examines the history of racial “passing” in an international context
  • Uses an intersectional lens to untangle a family history

An obsessive genealogist and descendent of one of the most prominent Jewish families since the American Revolution, Blanche Moses firmly believed her maternal ancestors were Sephardic grandees. Yet she found herself at a dead end when it came to her grandmother’s maternal line. Using family heirlooms to unlock the mystery of Moses’s ancestors, Once We Were Slaves overturns the reclusive heiress’s assumptions about her family history to reveal that her grandmother and great-uncle, Sarah and Isaac Brandon, actually began their lives as poor Christian slaves in Barbados. Tracing the siblings’ extraordinary journey throughout the Atlantic World, Leibman examines artifacts they left behind in Barbados, Suriname, London, Philadelphia, and, finally, New York, to show how Sarah and Isaac were able to transform themselves and their lives, becoming free, wealthy, Jewish, and–at times–white. While their affluence made them unusual, their story mirrors that of the largely forgotten population of mixed African and Jewish ancestry that constituted as much as ten percent of the Jewish communities in which the siblings lived, and sheds new light on the fluidity of race–as well as on the role of religion in racial shift–in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Table of Contents

  • Illustrations
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: Origins (Bridgetown, 1793-1798)
  • Chapter 2: From Slave to Free (Bridgetown, 1801)
  • Chapter 3: From Christian to Jew (Suriname, 1811-12)
  • Chapter 4: The Tumultuous Island (Bridgetown, 1812-1817)
  • Chapter 5: Synagogue Seats (New York & Philadelphia, 1793-1818)
  • Chapter 6: The Material of Race (London, 1815-17)
  • Chapter 7: Voices of Rebellion (Bridgetown, 1818-24)
  • Chapter 8: A Woman Valor (New York, 1817-19)
  • Chapter 9: This Liberal City (Philadelphia, 1818-33)
  • Chapter 10: Feverish Love (New York, 1819-1830)
  • Chapter 11: When I am Gone (New York, Barbados, London, 1830-1847)
  • Chapter 12: Legacies (New York and Beyond, 1841-1860)
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix: Family Trees
  • Abbreviations
  • Bibliography
  • Notes
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Jews of color, once sidelined, now being recruited by Jewish agencies

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, Social Justice, United States on 2021-09-22 01:46Z by Steven

Jews of color, once sidelined, now being recruited by Jewish agencies

The Jewish News of Northern California
2021-08-05

Rachele Kanigel, Professor of Journalism
San Francisco State University


Paula Pretlow (right) with her daughter Alison in Jerusalem.

During her 13 years as a lay leader in the Jewish community, Paula Pretlow couldn’t help but notice the obvious: When decisions were being made, she usually was the only Jew of color in the room.

As a retired executive of an investment management firm, Pretlow was a “catch” for Jewish organizations. She was well versed in the language of finance, and she had impressive professional experience and connections.

Shortly after she joined Temple Isaiah in Lafayette in 2007, her rabbi suggested she serve on its board of directors. Later, when she moved to San Francisco and joined Congregation Emanu-El, she was asked to join that board. And then a major national philanthropic organization, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, invited her to become a trustee.

Other leaders in the Jewish community sought her counsel. She was a macher, a person of influence. But as a Black woman, she rarely saw other Jews of color in similar positions of power.

That’s begun to change in the past year.

In the 14 months since the brutal murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer transfixed and transformed the nation, Pretlow has seen local and national Jewish organizations not only reach out to Jews of color but start to grapple with the racism that has festered for years in corners of the community…

Read the entire article here.

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