PRESS RELEASE: Racially Diverse Jews at Inauguration


Contact: Diane Tobin
V. 415.386.2604


San Francisco, January 20, 2009—A number of racially diverse Jews are attending President Barack Obama’s historic inauguration. Among them are Lacey Schwartz, a bi-racial Jew with a white mother and biological African American father, and Rabbi Capers Funnye, a cousin of the new First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Ms. Schwartz is the New York regional director of Be’chol Lashon, an international organization based in San Francisco that advocates for the growth of the Jewish people through racial and ethnic diversity. “I am black, white, and Jewish,” said 32 year old Lacey Schwartz, “and the President represents redefining racial and religious boundaries in the United States. He speaks to my generation in a way that no leader has ever done before him.”

Racially and ethnically diverse Jews represent about 20% of American Jews, according to research conducted by the Institute for Jewish & Community, which sponsors Be’chol Lashon. “We are proud to represent the Jewish community ,” said Diane Tobin, Be’chol Lashon’s director. “We show that Jews reflect every group in America’s amazing patchwork quilt.”

Rabbi Capers Funnye has a special connection to the inauguration. He is the Jewish part of the President’s extended family tree. He is the spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian synagogue in Chicago and the associate director of Be’chol Lashon, and works extensively in African countries to help grow emerging Jewish communities. Rabbi Funnye explained that ” I cherish my role in building bridges between black and white Jews, and among Jews and different religious groups. I believe that the election of President Obama helps us all re-think how we see ourselves as Jews and how we see others.”

Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue), an initiative of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR), advocates for the diversity that has characterized the Jewish people throughout history, and through contemporary forces that include intermarriage, conversion and adoption. IJCR is an independent, non-partisan think tank that provides innovative research and pragmatic policy analyses about racial and religious identity, philanthropy, and higher education.