Menu JTA Search

Ethiopian-born Bronx Rabbi Urges Full Acceptance of Black Jews

A 35-year-old Ethiopian-born rabbi urged the American Jewish community today to accelerate a recent shift toward acceptance of black Jews. Hailu Paris, who has been assistant rabbi at Congregation Mt. Horab in the Bronx, which serves some 50 black Jewish families, received a degree in Jewish studies last month from Yeshiva University and has started graduate work in Jewish education at the university.

“During the past 50 to 75 years, there had been a rigid non-acceptance of the black Jew” by American Jews but “in recent years, there has been a shift from the ‘old guard’ view of non-acceptance toward a ‘new guard’ position of greater acceptance,” he asserted. Enrollment of black Jewish youth in yeshivas in the United States and Israel was described as an example of this shift by Rabbi Paris but he declared that “too many Jews” still have “a social hang-up about accepting the black Jew.” He added that while some Hasidic groups “have expressed willingness to accept and integrate black Jews into their communities, the general attitude has not yet evolved into full acceptance.”

He said such organizations as the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York had been instrumental in relocating many black Jews in white Jewish communities to give them the benefit of a “total Jewish environment.” Rabbi Paris, who came to the United States in 1936 during Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, is a board member of Hazaad Harishon, an organization formed to help prepare black Jewish youth for acceptance into the white Jewish community. During 1965 and 1966 he returned to Ethiopia for contacts with the Falashas, the country’s 30,000 black Jews. He is a member of the Pro-Falasha committee of New York, which seeks to improve the lot of the Falasha Jews.

NEXT STORY