Black Jews From Chicago Sing with Northfield Congregation

African-American Jews are rare. Yes, a number of Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel and the United States in 1984, but a congregation on Chicago’s South Side has flourished with converts and other ethnic groups. They recently collaborated with a North Shore congregation to perform “Jewish Music Like You’ve Never Heard Before.”

Rabbi Capers Funnye of Congregation Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago joined Rabbi Debra Newman-Kamen of Am Yisrael in Northfield to introduce a celebratory concert of traditional liturgical music and Hebrew folk songs. Beth Shalom provided a dozen colorfully adorned singers along with a combo of drums, bongos, flute, guitar and keyboards. Am Yisrael provided the baritone vocals of Cantor Stuart Simon with guitar.

More than 500 people clapped and sang during the unusual concert at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. Billed as “Hallelu-YAH!, Jews came to the concert to raise funds for both congregations. Many expressed suprise and delight hearing traditional prayers recited or “performed” in a more expressive, gospel-like style.

(Tags: Rabbi Capers Funnye, Black, Jews)