In celebration of Black History Month, we’ve created a reading list of books that explore the diversity of Black Jewish experiences, starting with an award-winning children’s book written by HUC-JIR rabbinical student, Shoshana Nambi. Enjoy these fascinating and inspiring autobiographies, essays, novels, and meditations.
The Very Best Sukkah: A Story from Uganda
Shoshi and her brothers love to decorate their sukkah, the hut where her family will celebrate Sukkot. But who will win the Ugandan Abayudaya community’s annual sukkah contest? While only one sukkah can be the best, everybody wins when neighbors work together.
Shoshana Nambi is a fourth-year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR.
Marra B. Gad
The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed Race Jewish Girl
Winner of the 2020 Midwest Book Award in Autobiography/Memoir, The Color of Love is an unforgettable memoir about a mixed-race Jewish woman who, after fifteen years of estrangement from her racist great-aunt, helps bring her home when Alzheimer’s strikes.
Listen to Gad’s 2020 interview on HUC-JIR’s College Commons Podcast.
Bruce D. Haynes
The Soul of Judaism: Jews of African Descent in America
A glimpse into the diverse stories of Black Jews in the United States, this book traces the history of Jews of African descent in America and the counter-narratives they have put forward as they stake their claims to Jewishness.
The Last Black Unicorn
From stand-up comedian, actress, and breakout star of Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish, comes The Last Black Unicorn, a sidesplitting, hysterical, edgy, and unflinching collection of (extremely) personal essays, as fearless as the author herself.
Peacesong DC: A Jewish Africana Academia Epic Tale of Washington City
Shirah Shulamit Ojero has four loves: her African American culture, her Jewish heritage, academic study — especially the study of literary epics — and her city, Washington, D.C. Peacesong DC displays the interconnection of these four loves as Shirah grows up in various Washington, D.C. neighborhoods.
Dr. Tarece Johnson
Ahava: Soulful Shabbat Meditations, Motivations & Affirmations by a Black Jew
“When I made the conscious decision to convert to Judaism and as I searched for ways to connect with my new Jewish lifestyle, I needed sources that mirrored my personal choices and experiences. In the traditional liturgy, I did not find Shabbat meditation books that were focused on conversion, social justice, and the Black Jewish woman experience. So I did what Jewish women have done through the generations: I wrote a book of prayers and meditations, called Ahava,” says Dr. Tarece.
Sex, Murder and a Double Latte
Mystery writer Sophie Katz suspects that a crazed fan is sneaking into her apartment to reenact scenes from her books. And when a filmmaker friend is brutally murdered in the manner of a death scene from one of his movies, she’s convinced that a copycat killer is on the loose — and that she’s the next target. The man who swoops in to save her is the mysterious new love interest Anatoly Darinsky. Of course, if this were fiction, Anatoly would be her prime suspect.
Chai-ME: My exploration of Race, Religion, and Spirituality in America
Manasseh gives a fresh perspective into the world of not just Black Jews but all Jews and the role religion plays in the politics of our community and our world. She also shares the struggle of African-Americans to be seen as individuals within a larger group or within multiple groups and not just those dictated by race.
Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi
Thought leader and provocateur MaNishtana turns his eye to fiction in this imaginative, semi-autobiographical novel, making Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi the most dazzling debut of an Orthodox Black Jew born on a Sunday at 2:24 AM in a Brooklyn hospital in 1982 that you will ever have the privilege of reading.
Aaron Levy Samuels
Yarmulkes & Fitted Caps
Aaron Levy Samuels, raised in Providence, RI by a Jewish mother and a Black father, is a Cave Canem Fellow and a nationally acclaimed performer. In this ground-breaking collection of poems, Samuels examines the beauty and contradictions of his of his own mixed identity with gut-wrenching narratives, humor, and passionate verve.
Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew
The James Beard award-winning author explores the cultural crossroads of Jewish and African diaspora cuisine and issues of memory, identity, and food.