How a multiracial Orthodox rabbi is using his background to create a unique community in Brooklyn

Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein wants people of all backgrounds to feel welcome in his Brooklyn community. (Josefin Dolsten/JTA)

NEW YORK — Growing up in the Orthodox community of Monsey, New York, as the son of an African-American mother who converted to Judaism and a white Ashkenazi father who became religious later in life, Isaiah Rothstein knows what it’s like not to fit in. The New York hamlet is known for its large Hasidic Jewish population and over 95 percent of its residents are white.

Rothstein, who is light skinned and says he tends to “pass for white,” remembers the unwanted attention he got in school because of his family background.

“When I would walk in with my mom I would get all these stares, but when I walked in with my dad I didn’t,” he recalled.

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