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Friday, September 05, 2008

A rabbi in the family

While we're on the Jewish politics topic, a moment for a perennial from the Forward: Turning up the unexpected Jewish relative:

While Barack Obama has struggled to capture the Jewish vote, it turns out that one of his wife’s cousins is the country’s most prominent black rabbi — a fact that has gone largely unnoticed.

Michelle Obama, wife of the Democratic presidential nominee, and Rabbi Capers Funnye, spiritual leader of a mostly black synagogue on Chicago’s South Side, are first cousins once removed. Funnye’s mother, Verdelle Robinson Funnye (born Verdelle Robinson) and Michelle Obama’s paternal grandfather, Frasier Robinson Jr., were brother and sister.

Funnye (pronounced fuh-NAY) is chief rabbi at the Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in southwest Chicago. He is well-known in Jewish circles for acting as a bridge between mainstream Jewry and the much smaller, and largely separate, world of black Jewish congregations, sometimes known as black Hebrews or Israelites. He has often urged the larger Jewish community to be more accepting of Jews who are not white.

The Forward memorably turned up Hillary Clinton's Jewish roots in the run-up to her first New York race.

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