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Black American Jews share their Passover traditions


According to a 2021 report by the Pew Research Center, there are approximately 5.8 million Jewish adults in the United States; the overwhelming majority identify as white and non-Hispanic. In a 2021 study commissioned by the Jews of Color Initiative, an organization dedicated to supporting and empowering this community, 80% of the approximately 1,100 self-identified Jews of color nationwide said they had been victimized. of discrimination in a Jewish setting.

One percent of black Americans identify as Jewish, but in younger generations that percentage increases, and young American Jews as a whole are a much more diverse group than their older counterparts.

“Jewish civilization is, can and will be as much like us as anyone else,” Mr. Twitty said.

There are clear parallels between the experience of black Americans and the Passover story.

In the biblical book of Exodus, God inflicts the 10 plagues – including killing the firstborn of each family – to persuade Pharaoh to let the Jewish people go. (God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb and mark their doors with its blood, so the death angel can “pass over” their homes.)

God then frees the Israelites from slavery in Egypt after four centuries of bondage, parting the Red Sea so they can escape; then they wander in the desert for 40 years. It’s a story of struggle and liberation – the same kind of liberation that black Americans experienced after the Emancipation Proclamation and are still seeking today.

Robin Washington, 65, a journalist and editor of the Forward, and a longtime prominent voice among Jews of color, tells the story of finding a book to prop up his laptop during a virtual Seder in 2021 at his home in Duluth, Minn. Halfway through dinner, he realized he had caught Taylor Branch’s “Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63”, about the early works and accomplishments of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. — a divine coincidence.

“Passover, to me, is about empowerment,” Mr. Washington said. “As far as liberation from slavery is concerned, they are inseparable, in my mind. I couldn’t think of Jews held as slaves without thinking of Blacks held as slaves.

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