PRESS RELEASE: Black, Latino, and Asian Jews From Around the Globe Meet in San Francisco
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Diane Tobin
San Francisco, May 1, 2008—Racially and ethnically diverse Jewish leaders from all over the Jewish world are meeting from May 2-5 in San Francisco. The gathering is sponsored by Be’chol Lashon, which in Hebrew means, “In Every Tongue.” This year’s participants will focus on issues about conversion to Judaism. Countries represented include Spain, Portugal, France, Brazil, Uganda, and South Africa, among others.
“This is the largest conference of Black, Asian, Latino, and mix-raced Jewish leaders,” says Diane Tobin, Director of Be’chol Lashon, and Assistant Director of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research. “One of the most critical issues facing Jews around the world today is how we deal with conversion. Does Judaism want to be part of the marketplace of world religions or not?”
Participants of the assembly include Rabbi Capers Funnye, an African American from Chicago recently profiled in the New York Times, Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, the first rabbi from Uganda to be ordained in an American rabbinical school, Avishai and Shari Mekonen, documentary film makers currently finishing a project about Judaism and race, and Dr. Lewis Gordon, Director of the Center for Afro-Judaic Studies at Temple University.
“The conference makes me feel at home. It inspires me to do everything I can to help grow my own community in Chicago, and to serve Jews throughout Africa,” said Rabbi Capers Funnye, and African-American rabbi, and Associate Director of Be’chol Lashon.
The group addresses issues as far-reaching as how to bring much needed water resources and health care to the Jews of Uganda to how to help support the growing number of Jews around the world who seek to convert to Judaism. Different Jewish communities face a variety of issues concerning how and why they reclaim their history, identity, and practice.
The conference also includes descendents of the forced conversions of the Spanish Inquisition who are exploring their Jewish roots. “Be’chol Lashon helps the anusim (Hebrew for forced converts) reclaim their Jewish heritage,” says Rabbi Manny Viñas, who is a first generation Cuban American. “I feel like this is holy work.”
The Be’chol Lashon International Think Tank is sponsored by the Institute for Jewish & Community Research, an independent, non-partisan public policy institute dedicated to the growth of the Jewish community. Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue) grows and strengthens the Jewish people through ethnic, cultural, and racial inclusiveness. We advocate for the diversity that has characterized the Jewish people throughout history, and through contemporary forces including intermarriage, conversion and adoption. We foster an expanding Jewish community that embraces its differences.