Sunday, May 27, 2018

Is Barack Mandela a Jew?

Michael Lumish

Many of my pieces tend to be reactions - hopefully thoughtful - to the opinions of others.

Every now and again a particular commenter or writer will say something that strikes at my core and I feel an urge to write on it. This has gotten me into trouble with people in the past, but I want to highlight a Facebook post by an individual named Barack Mandela and I very much hope he will not mind.

Mandela writes:
My name is Barack. I am African American. I converted to Judaism in 1995---23 years ago. Am I considered "Jewish"? Am I considered a "convert"? Am I considered just a "confused Black clown"? Am I accepted among Jewish communities? I am a member of the World Jewish Congress.
I find it exceedingly sad, although not particularly surprising, that a fellow Jew might feel this way.

This was my response:
Barack the Jewish nation is the most open and accessible nation of people on the planet. The key to inclusion, if you do not happen to have been born Jewish, is the religion. By joining the religion you become one of us, a Jew.

This is different from any other nation on the planet. For example, were I a Francophile and moved to France and learned the language and the customs, and so forth, I could still never actually be French.

But you are a Jew.

That makes you one of us. 
It bothers me that he even feels it necessary to question how the rest of us think about a Black convert to the faith.

When I was a little boy my mother's mother would sometimes say to me, "Michaela, be proud to be a Jew."

At the time, I had not the slightest idea what she was talking about. I understood the word "proud" and I understood the word "Jew," but at the age of 12 I did not see any reason to be any more proud of being Jewish than I was proud of having brown hair and hazel eyes. I saw no more reason in Jewish pride than I saw in why my Junior High School friend, Wesley Chang, would have particular pride in Chinese ancestry or why Brent Donohue, from up the road, would have particular pride in Irish ancestry.

We were all just American kids and even as kids understood, and generally accepted, that we come in various sizes and shapes and ethnicities and genders. It was all just part of the general American mish-mash and it just seemed perfectly normal to me.

What I did not realize then, but what I have come to recognize since is that however much I might admire aspects of Chinese culture - and I do very much admire aspects of Chinese culture - I can never become Chinese.

It is an impossibility.

And however much I admire Irish culture - and I do very much admire aspects of Irish culture - I can never become Irish.

But the Jewish faith is the entrance to the nation.

This is unusual among peoples and nations (and ethnicities and "races"}.

But I occasionally wonder why some people want to become Jewish.

To be a Jew with any sense of the history of the Jewish people is, in some measure, to keep an eye over one's shoulder. Jewish people represent a tiny .2 percent of the world population and yet we have been harassed and occupied and ethnically-cleansed and slaughtered throughout our history by much larger hostile populations who honestly believed that they have every moral right to kick our children in the face.

Some non-Jews, with a condescending smirk, might suggest that I am living in the past or that I am allowing the Shoah to serve as a neurotic shadow.

This is false.

The truth is that the Jewish people throughout the world are still under constant pressure by much larger hostile powers that want to see the Land of Israel (i.e., the Land of the Jews) tamed and undermined and weakened and eventually eliminated. And even those non-Jews who many of us consider friends believe that Israel, the very land of our heritage, is actually a European colonial power that is forcing the allegedly "indigenous" Arab population under the boot of Jewish supremacism.

This is a lie, but there are hundreds of millions of people who believe it. These people have internationally powerful institutions on their side, such as the European Union, the United Nations, Britain's Labour Party, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Democratic Party.

So, my answer to Barack Mandela is, yes, you are one of us.

But there is a reason that we do not encourage conversion.


  1. He is as Jewish as any other Jewish American

  2. There should be an edit function!

    Human freedom as we know it might not exist, but for the Jewish forefathers. That is unwieldy for tyrants and oppressors of all stripes.

    Not a new article, but one that provides rationale for Jewish philosophy, is here:

    A moral and just world centers on the individual and the cumulative effect all individual behavior. Not that the Jewish way, and Jewish law, is perfect, but perhaps the best so far. It even respects the rights of the haters. Imagine these intersectionalists' treatment by Mr. Erdogan, rather a safe society based on Jewish principles.

    As to Barack, the answer to all his questions may be YES! If you go through what it takes to convert, then embrace it and lose the confused clown persona.

  3. If he converted/returned 'orthodox' by halacha, then yes, 100%. "World Jewish Congress"? Not sure how they define Jewish. If they use "Reform/Conserv" then it's not accurate.

    1. Welcome to Israel Thrives.

      I have to say, as a matter of policy, I never get into theological debates around Judaism.

      That I leave to others.

  4. There are many today who decide who is and who is not a Jew for many reasons, none of which have anything at all to do with Jewish law.

  5. ML, there is something about you that I do not understand.

    You claim to be an atheist or agnostic, but you recognize converts to Judaism as brothers because they went through a conversion process that was organized by a religion that you do not believe in.

    Can you understand how that is a contradiction?

    1. Mr. Cohen, that is an excellent question.

      I am an agnostic Jew who holds the faith in respect.

      My agnosticism derives entirely from my inability to make any judgments on the deity.

      That is, like Donald Rumsfled - without being too flip, I hope - I am aware of the Known Unknowns.

      I conceive of the Jewish people as a people, which is to say as a "nation" or "ethnicity" or "tribe."

      I have no problems whatsoever with accepting any person into the tribe if they wish to join us and satisfy the concerns and procedures of fair-minded rabbis.

    2. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but for most American Jews, "inability to make any judgments on the deity" is usually a result of not having studied enough about what Judaism teaches.

      I suggest the writings of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.
      He wrote 60 books about Judaism topics.
      The more of his books you read, the better.

    3. You will have to excuse me, but I am in no position whatsoever to judge the deity.

  6. What kind of conversion did this person experience?

    Was he converted by REAL Rabbis, or was he converted by fake Liberal “Rabbis” who deny the divine origin of the Torah?

    Was he converted by REAL Rabbis, or was he converted by fake Liberal “Rabbis” who eat pork and lobster?

    Was he converted by REAL Rabbis, or was he converted by fake Liberal “Rabbis” who perform fake “marriage” ceremonies that unite Jewish men with non-Jewish women?

    Was he converted by REAL Rabbis, or was he converted by fake Liberal “Rabbis” who perform fake “gay marriage” ceremonies and fake “lesbian marriage” ceremonies?

    Was he converted by REAL Rabbis, or was he converted by fake Liberal “Rabbis” who have more sympathy for Muslim terrorists who murder Jews than they do for the Jewish victims of the Muslim terrorists?

    Was he converted by REAL Rabbis, or was he converted by fake Liberal “Rabbis” who publicly slander Israel and boycott Israel and pressure Israel into making suicidal concessions, while immediately silencing anyone who criticizes Muslims?

    Reform Jews ally themselves with the anti-Israel Far-Left and the anti-Israel Intersectionality Movement, so it is correct to publicize these short blog articles that expose Reform Judaism:

    Rambam Refutes Reform Judaism:

    Why Barak Hullman left Reform Judaism and became Orthodox:

    How a Reform Rabbi Became Orthodox:

    Reform Judaism vs. Real Judaism:

    Sephardic Jews REJECT Reform Judaism:

    How Reform Jews CHEATED on the Pew survey:

    Quick quote from Famous Jewish
    mega-donor about Jewish Continuity

    Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch vs Reform Judaism:

    Last but not least, the Reform Jews strongly opposed efforts to save European Jews from the Holocaust during World War II. Those rescue efforts were led by Orthodox Jews, who the Reform Jews considered to be behind-the-times and obsolete and an embarrassment.

    The Reform Jews got what they wanted:
    the rescue efforts failed.

    1. They may have considered them behind the times, but they did not consider them non-Jewish. Plenty of Orthodox act contrary to Jewish law. Plenty of Reform and seculars act in compliance with Jewish law. In the end, it's not the Orthodox that decide, even if they think they do.

    2. The key difference between Masorti conversion and Orthodox conversion is that Masorti focuses on the mechanics of conversion while Orthodox is more concerned with living a Frum life. They both have the same starting point of knowledge a d sincerity.

    3. Mr. Cohen, I tend to take them at their word if it is a halachic conversion. Your point is well-taken, but I think there are some rabbis who are overzealous with respect to the people who apply for conversion. This creates problems for all Jews, and I don't think anyone (convert or born Jew) should be embarrassed by rabbis who believe that their practices are not to their level.

  7. Sadly, there are a lot of converts who think the same way as Barack. I think there is a lot of confusion on the part of Jews when they see a convert (not even one of color). I think everyone should be educated about how to treat converts, because this is going to reflect negatively on all of us.

    1. I never in my entire life gave a moment's thought on how to behave toward those who converted into the faith.

      They're just Jews.


    2. I agree with you, but the fact is that many converts face discrimination by their fellow Jews. I attribute this to ignorance, but this is something that should not be tolerated.

    3. FWIW I have worked with people entering Judaism over the years and one thing I tell them is that once you're welcomed in, you're in. Don't mention it. Don't tell anyone 'I converted'. It's not worth the confusion. We are a clannish lot and many Jews are not so forgiving. Heck, I can't stand the Satmars because they're this to the extreme - anyone not a Satmar is apikorsim. You say "I'm a Jew" and leave it at that.