This volume explores the myriad ways in which African American religions have encountered Jewish traditions, beliefs, and spaces. In contrast to previous works, which have typically focused on the social and political relationship between blacks and Jews, Black Zion places religion at the center of its discussion, thereby illuminating a critically ...
This volume explores the myriad ways in which African American religions have encountered Jewish traditions, beliefs, and spaces. In contrast to previous works, which have typically focused on the social and political relationship between blacks and Jews, Black Zion places religion at the center of its discussion, thereby illuminating a critically important but little explored aspect of black-Jewish relations in America. The essays gathered here examine groups such as the Nation of Islam and the Hebrew Israelites, individuals such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Joshua Heschel, and topics such as the transformation of synagogue space into African American churches and the symbolic role of the Jew in the Haitian religious imagination. This collection draws on sacred texts, interviews, and ethnographic and archival research to discuss the shared elements in black and Jewish sacred life, as well as the development and elaboration of new religious identities by African Americans. Featuring contributions from a group of renowned scholars and writers, this groundbreaking volume reveals a great deal about both African American religions and the meaning of Judaism in the contemporary world. It is essential reading for students of religion, history, cultural studies, black studies, and American studies.
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Publishers Weekly, 2000-01-10 Many recent studies of Black-Jewish relations assume that the two ethnic categories are mutually exclusive. Not so, according to the two Swarthmore College historians who edited this absorbing volume. A 1990 national survey found that 2.4% of American Jews--about 132,000 people--identify themselves as black and that 239,000 African-Americans claim some personal connection with Judaism. The ten essays that comprise this collection offer "a suggestive sample" of their varied stories. The most interesting chapters examine the terms in which African-American Jews negotiate their compound identities in the context of a wider culture that is generally unsympathetic. Other essays examine such topics as the theological connections between Judaism and African-American varieties of Islam, the appropriation of abandoned synagogues by African-American congregations and the employment of Jewish stereotypes among Haitian practitioners of Vodou. One may quibble with the selection: a celebratory essay on Abraham Joshua Heschel's relationship with Martin Luther King seems decidedly out of place, and there are two chapters on the Hebrew Israelites, a small sect of black Americans who emigrated to Israel in 1969, but none on the Falasha Jews of Ethiopia, whose cause appeals neither to Pan-Africanists nor to Zionists. However, the book's eclectic nature is also one of its strengths, revealing the great diversity and complexity of modern religious responses to the questions of ethnic identity. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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