The Soul of Judaism

9781479811236: Hardback
Release Date: 14th August 2018

9781479800636: PDF
Release Date: 14th August 2018

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 272

Series Religion, Race, and Ethnicity

NYU Press

The Soul of Judaism

Jews of African Descent in America

Hardback / £34.00
PDF / £36.00

A glimpse into the diverse stories of Black Jews in the United States

What makes a Jew? This book traces the history of Jews of African descent in America and the counter-narratives they have put forward as they stake their claims to Jewishness.

The Soul of Judaism offers the first exploration of the full diversity of Black Jews, including bi-racial Jews of both matrilineal and patrilineal descent; adoptees; black converts to Judaism; and Black Hebrews and Israelites, who trace their Jewish roots to Africa and challenge the dominant western paradigm of Jews as white and of European descent.

Blending historical analysis and oral history, Haynes showcases the lives of Black Jews within the Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstruction and Reform movements, as well as the religious approaches that push the boundaries of the common forms of Judaism we know today. He illuminates how in the quest to claim whiteness, American Jews of European descent gained the freedom to express their identity fluidly while African Americans have continued to be seen as a fixed racial group. This book demonstrates that racial ascription has been shaping Jewish selfhood for centuries. Pushing us to reassess the boundaries between race and ethnicity, it offers insight into how Black Jewish individuals strive to assert their dual identities and find acceptance within their respective communities.

Putting to rest the simplistic notion that Jews are white and that Black Jews are therefore a contradiction, the volume argues that we can no longer pigeonhole Black Hebrews and Israelites as exotic, militant, and nationalistic sects outside the boundaries of mainstream Jewish thought and community life. The volume spurs us to consider the significance of the growing population of self-identified Black Jews and its implications for the future of American Jewry.
A glimpse into the diverse stories of Black Jews in the United States

What makes a Jew? This book traces the history of Jews of African descent in America and the counter-narratives they have put forward as they stake their claims to Jewishness.

The Soul of Judaism offers the first exploration of the full diversity of Black Jews, including bi-racial Jews of both matrilineal and patrilineal descent; adoptees; black converts to Judaism; and Black Hebrews and Israelites, who trace their Jewish roots to Africa and challenge the dominant western paradigm of Jews as white and of European descent.

Blending historical analysis and oral history, Haynes showcases the lives of Black Jews within the Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstruction and Reform movements, as well as the religious approaches that push the boundaries of the common forms of Judaism we know today. He illuminates how in the quest to claim whiteness, American Jews of European descent gained the freedom to express their identity fluidly while African Americans have continued to be seen as a fixed racial group. This book demonstrates that racial ascription has been shaping Jewish selfhood for centuries. Pushing us to reassess the boundaries between race and ethnicity, it offers insight into how Black Jewish individuals strive to assert their dual identities and find acceptance within their respective communities.

Putting to rest the simplistic notion that Jews are white and that Black Jews are therefore a contradiction, the volume argues that we can no longer pigeonhole Black Hebrews and Israelites as exotic, militant, and nationalistic sects outside the boundaries of mainstream Jewish thought and community life. The volume spurs us to consider the significance of the growing population of self-identified Black Jews and its implications for the future of American Jewry.

Bruce D. Haynes is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis and a Senior Fellow in the Urban Ethnography Project at Yale University. He is author or coauthor, among other works, of Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family, The Ghetto: Contemporary Issues and Controversies, and Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family.