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Donna L. Halper

rabbi, educator, and one of America's best-known black Jews, was born Capers Charles Funnye Jr., in Georgetown, South Carolina, to Charles Funnye Sr. and Verdelle (Robinson), native South Carolinians. Raised in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Funnye (pronounced fah-NAY) nearly attended the seminary to become a minister. He grew up on Chicago's South Side, where his parents had moved when he was a child, and he saw the effects of segregation firsthand. After Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated he wanted to do something to change society and fight racism In his senior year in high school a pastor he respected suggested that he would make a good minister and for a time he seriously considered it But he had been having doubts about Christianity and embarked on a search for the right spiritual path Ultimately he encountered members of a sect called the ...

Article

Donna L. Halper

religious leader, fugitive, and political activist, was born David Hill in Nashville, Arkansas. Details of his early years are sketchy, although in interviews he claimed to have served in the navy during World War II and said that he spent many years as a civil rights activist and was persecuted by the government for it.

The government told a different version of Hill's story: it sought him because he was a con man with an arrest record dating back to the 1940s who had jumped bail after being arrested for defrauding people in several states. In 1957, for example, under the name “Reverend Frank Williams Hill had a small church in Chicago where he claimed to be either a bishop or a minister In reality he had never been ordained He also won the trust of a number of Chicago residents including at least ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

rabbi and educator, was born Lawrence Albert McKethan, to West McKethan and Lilly (Blue) McKethan, farmers in Cumberland County, North Carolina. The future rabbi traced his ancestry back to Chattie Blue, a slave who came with the Hodges family from England to North Carolina in the nineteenth century. She obtained her freedom and gave birth to six children, including his fraternal grandmother, Lucy Blue, who was a revered midwife to black and white women in the county. Lucy married a man named Duncan McKethan and gave birth to eight children including one named West. After the death of his first wife, Flora, West married Lilly, a woman of Cherokee ancestry. They had fourteen children, including Levy.

Levy grew up on a small farm with eighteen older siblings and one younger sibling He was a bright adventurous child who taught himself to sing and play the ...

Article

Gelien Matthews

rabbi and educator, was the son of Joseph Matthew and Frances M. Cornelius, and was raised in St. Mary’s, St. Kitts, in the British West Indies. At various stages of his career, Matthew claimed, however, to have been born in Ethiopia, Ghana, or Lagos, Nigeria. He also stated that his father was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and that his grandfather was an Ethiopian Jew. As a child, Matthew was given the Hebrew name Yoseh ben Moshe ben Yehuda.

Following the death of his father while Wentworth was still a small boy his mother migrated to St Kitts to join family members who were formerly enslaved on the island At the age of 21 Matthew migrated to New York where he initially turned to carpentry and boxing before making a name for himself as the founder of black Judaism in the United States As with his family origins details of Matthew ...

Article

Efraim Barak

Chief Rabbi of the Ottoman Empire (1908–1920) and of Egypt (1925–1960). It is customary to add to his name the title of Effendi. He was born on December 23, 1872 in Magnesia (Manisa) near Izmir, in western Turkey, to his father, Behor Yosef Nahum, and his mother, Caden Gracia, who was of the Franco lineage. In his childhood, he travelled with his grandfather to Tiberias in Palestine, where he stayed to learn traditional teachings. After several years he returned to his birth place and completed his secondary school studies in Lycée-Impérial in Izmir. Between 1897–1893, Nahum studied in the Rabbinical Seminary in Paris, and was ordained a Rabbi. This institution was part of a network of religious schools established in Western Europe, geared towards training Rabbis espousing a positive outlook on modernization. His studies were funded by the Alliance Israélite Universelle (in Hebrew: Kol ...