African-American Rabbi Addresses Beverly Hills Synagogue

Judaism is a global faith and not limited to ethnicity, Capers Funnye tells Temple of the Arts congregants on Friday.

Rabbi Capers Funnye, a prominent African-American rabbi from Chicago who is a cousin of first lady Michelle Obama, shared an important message with the congregation of Temple of the Arts at Shabbat services in Beverly Hills on Friday.

“The color of a person’s skin should not matter. It is what is in that person’s heart and in that person’s soul that matters,” Funnye told the congregants at the Saban Theatre, where Temple of the Arts holds its services. “We are a Jewish people linked to each other not by color or racial background, but because of our belief.”

The purpose of the service was to explore the nexus of Jews in Africa, which is why Funnye was invited to speak, said Rabbi David Baron of Temple of the Arts.

“We felt this would be a particularly meaningful service for him,” Baron said. “There is a long history of Jews on the African continent. In fact, Egypt is mentioned in the Bible almost as much as the Promised Land, the land of Israel.”

Raised Methodist, Funnye began to question his faith at age 17 and converted to Judaism in 1971 when he was introduced to the religion from an African perspective. He told the members of Temple of the Arts that Judaism is and always has been a global faith made up of people from every part of the world and that Jews come in every color, every stripe and every ethnicity.

“Even if you have a guy named Capers Funnye walk into your shul with a tallit bag under his arm and a kippah on his head, if he knows a few of the prayers, please assume he is a Jew,” Funnye said. “I believe speaking here at Temple of the Arts is an appropriate setting to share my message, because you embrace people like me who are Jews by choice.”

In addition to inviting people to address the congregation, Temple of the Arts weaves music, performance, art and dance into its Shabbat and Holy Day worship experience.

“We try to let people experience the religious experience through the arts and also through interesting guest speakers,” Baron said. “This opens people’s minds and at the end of the day, if you can open someone’s mind and their heart, then you’ve accomplished something.”
(Tags: Converts, Black, Rabbi, Capers Funnye)

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