You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

November 15: African-American Jews on TV

November 15, 2014
HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETDenise-Huxtable-Lisa-Bonet-1Two successful television actors who are both black and Jewish share this date as birthdays: Yaphet Kotto, born in New York in 1939; and Lisa Bonet, born to a Jewish mother and black father in San Francisco in 1967. Kotto, best known for his role on the detective series, Homicide: Life on the Street, wrote in his autobiography, Royalty, that his father was “the crown prince of Cameroon” and an observant Jew, fluent in Hebrew, while Kotto’s African-American mother converted to Judaism before their marriage. His paternal family, Kotto says, hailed from Israel centuries ago, migrating to Egypt and then Cameroon. Bonet, best known for her role as Bill Cosby’s daughter, Denise Huxtable, on The Cosby Show, has an African-American father (an opera singer) and a white Jewish mother (a teacher). She was married for several years to musician Lenny Kravitz, the son of a Jewish father and African-American mother. “Going to shul, putting a yarmulke on, having to face people who were primarily Baptists in the Bronx meant that on Fridays, I was in some heavy fistfights.” —Yaphet Kotto