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February 9: Alice Walker and Mel Leventhal

Alice Walker, whose many accomplishments include a Pulitzer Prize for her novel, The Color Purple (1982), was born in a sharecropping family in Georgia on this date in 1944. In 1967, Walker married the activist Jewish civil rights attorney Mel Leventhal, with whom she lived in Jackson, Mississippi. They were very possibly the first legally […]

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July 12: The Newark Riots

The Newark riots, a six-day uprising against police brutality and harassment of African-Americans, as well as redlining, inferior education, and other oppressions caused by institutional racism, broke out on this date in 1967 in the city’s Central Ward. The neighborhood had formerly been heavily Jewish, and many of its businesses remained in Jewish hands. (In […]

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September 24: Expelled from North America

French King Louis XIV ordered Jews expelled from French colonies in North America on this date in 1683. The order was mostly ignored where it would be most relevant, in Martinique, the Caribbean land with the largest Jewish population. France had conquered Martinique in 1635; Jews had arrived there with the Dutch in the previous […]

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June 6: A Unique Ordination

Alysa Stanton, the first African-American woman to become a rabbi, was ordained at age 45 by the Reform seminary in Cincinnati on this date in 2009. Stanton grew up in a Pentecostal family and converted to Judaism at 24. “Most people convert because they’re marrying or dating someone who is Jewish,” Stanton says. “. . […]

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O My America: Congo Square

by Lawrence Bush I’m at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, here on a short break to allow the healing power of music work its wonders on me. Yesterday I visited Congo Square, in Louis Armstrong Park, where slaves here in the deep Plantation South were permitted, over the decades, to gather and drum and dance […]

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March 11: The Hanafi Muslim Siege

Twelve African-American Hanafi Muslims surrendered to police on this date in 1977 after a two-day siege involving three buildings in Washington, DC (B’nai B’rith headquarters, city hall, and the Islamic Center of Washington). One hundred and forty-nine people were held hostage, more than 100 of them Jews, and a security guard and radio reporter were […]

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March 2: Jews and the Slave Trade

Congress abolished the slave trade on this date in 1807. According to Eli Faber’s 1998 book, Jews and the Slave Trade: Setting the Record Straight, the fact that “Jews participated in the slave trade, sometimes by investing in companies engaged in it, sometimes as the owners of slave ships… are matters that have long been […]

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January 13: Last of the Red Hot Mamas

Sophie Tucker (Sonya Kalish), one of the most popular entertainers of early 20th-century America, was born in Tulchyn, Ukraine on this date in 1886. Her reputation in vaudeville was built as a “Coon shouter” in black-face, as male producers thought she’d be rejected as a “big mama” without it, but in 1909, when her trunks were […]

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Chosen Clowns

by Mikhail Horowitz From the Autumn, 2011 issue of Jewish Currents Discussed in this essay: Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball, by Rebecca T. Alpert. 2011, Oxford University Press, 236 pages. IT’S PROBABLY SAFE to assume that not one baseball fan in fifty thousand has ever heard of the Belleville Grays. No less […]

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