Outnumbered: Standing Out at Work
Rabbi, Congregation Boneh Y’rushalaim
I’m descended from Orthodox Moroccan Jews. My great-grandfather was a leader in the Jewish community in Brazil. My parents were in the West Indies, then Panama. I didn’t meet many white folks in Panama. I came to the States in 1945 after I worked on an Army transport ship during the Second World War, and then went to yeshiva in 1960. I was the only black person. In my own life I lived Jewish. Didn’t eat pig, went to synagogue. I married a Puerto Rican woman in 1967. Her parents didn’t practice any religion, but they were probably Jews. Her name was Miriam Martinez. Our daughter is a Lubavitch. I also studied at the Lubavitch. It was very difficult. I had more difficulty in Brooklyn from the non-Jews than from the Jews. The Hispanic people wrote ”Jew” on my door in crayon. Everything turned out all right because I moved away. When it comes to the way we worship, at one time complexion didn’t matter. Now, if you are ”white,” the other white people might tell you you shouldn’t love a black person. Even in the Jewish community. In the Bible it says, ”Remember you were slaves in Egypt.” So they should remember not to be oppressive. But the oppressed usually becomes the oppressor, that’s true everywhere you go. For me, as long as my daughter is married to a Jew, I don’t care whom she marries, Chinese, Japanese, whatever. I have the idea of trying to build a Hebrew school for minorities. Separate, because it doesn’t work the other way. On the surface, it may seem like society’s changed, but you know and I know it remains the same.