By Tudor Parfitt
Harvard University Press, $29.95, 197 pages
Could Africans be Jews and could Jews be African? That is a question that has been asked across the centuries; mostly by Protestant Europeans and some African leaders. They believed that the answer was yes, Africans could be both black and Jewish at the same time. They claim that they are the ancestor of Ham from the Old Testament. That they are of the true Jewish faith as well, and should be considered fully Jewish. While never quite fitting in either as black or as Jewish they have struggled to maintain their identity. This book attempts to examine if it is possible to be both black and Jewish, but it just doesn’t quite work.
The author does a decent job exploring how this idea came about by examining the works of European writers and travelers. His narrative falls short when he tries to bridge the gap and answer the question of whether it is possible to be both black and Jewish. Does race play a part in what religion you are part of? This is a question that is mostly left unanswered and it makes the work much weaker.
Reviewed by Kevin Winter