The Soul of Journalism

Jews of African Descent in America

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Bruce D. Haynes
  • New York, NY: 
    New York University Press
    , August
     272 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Marla Brettschneider forthcoming.


A glimpse into the diverse stories of Black Jews in the United States. 

What makes a Jew?  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 Soul of Judaism offers the first exploration of the full diversity of Black Jews, including bi-racial Jews of both matrilineal and patrilineal descent; adoptees; black converts to Judaism; and Black Hebrews and Israelites, who trace their Jewish roots to Africa and challenge the dominant western paradigm of Jews as white and of European descent.

Blending historical analysis and oral history, Haynes showcases the lives of Black Jews within the Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstruction and Reform movements, as well as the religious approaches that push the boundaries of the common forms of Judaism we know today. He illuminates how in the quest to claim whiteness, American Jews of European descent gained the freedom to express their identity fluidly while African Americans have continued to be seen as a fixed racial group. This book demonstrates that racial ascription has been shaping Jewish selfhood for centuries. Pushing us to reassess the boundaries between race and ethnicity, it offers insight into how Black Jewish individuals strive to assert their dual identities and find acceptance within their respective communities. 

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Bruce D. Haynes is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis and a Senior Fellow in the Urban Ethnography Project at Yale University. He is author or coauthor, among other works, of Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem FamilyThe Ghetto: Contemporary Issues and Controversies, and Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family.

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