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Black Jew calls for black synagogue in France

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A black French Jew is making his case for the creation of the first black synagogue in France.

At one of the four-day events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the first Conservative Jewish synagogue in France, Adath Shalom, Guershon Nduwa explained to a packed room on Sunday why he thought France needs its first black synagogue.

"Judaism isn’t about the color of your skin," Nduwa said in an interview with the JTA. "But we feel excluded in synagogues, because they ask us why we’re there and to show our identification card. If you’re blond with blue eyes, that doesn’t happen," he said. He believes his initiative will be met with positive results.

The minority French Masorti, or Conservative community, has been particularly welcoming to the black Jews, who number 250 in Paris. They are either converts or of Ethiopian, West Indian or Israeli origin, said Nduwa. Orthodox Judaism is more common among practicing French Jews.

Nduwa said his organization, Judeo-black Fraternity of France, is conducting a study on the still-unknown number of black Jews in the country.

The 20th anniversary of the first Masorti synagogue in France was a significant milestone, Nduwa said.

"It is an important movement, because French Judaism was dominated by the Orthodox movement, and France had trouble adopting the Masorti tradition at first," he said.

Today, there are conservative synagogues in Paris, one in Nice, one in Aix-en-Provence and one in Marseille. Adath Shalom numbers about 300 families.

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