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The Black Orthodox


Gulienne Rollins-Rison.   

Gulienne Rollins-Rison & Manishtana Rison (pictured on page one)
Gulienne: For a while, I thought of myself as ethnically Jewish. I’m biracial, and in middle school people started to ask: “What are you?”
Manishtana: I always knew the person I’d marry would be black and Jewish. My friends would always tease me about how I was holding out for this mythical black Jewish woman.
Gulienne: As a Jew of color, you’re this mythical creature that supposedly doesn’t exist. He’s been writing a book about his life that’s going to be called Thoughts From a Unicorn.
Manishtana: For better or for worse, I never clicked with the Jewish community. I’ve always felt more at home in the African-American or Caribbean community. I went to synagogue for fifteen years with the same kids, but on the street they’d walk past me. For Jews, there’s this sense that we’re the chosen people, so we think we’re better than you. But when a person’s faced with someone they assume is of a lower rung and then they realize that person is also Jewish, it means they’re also chosen. I think that can be really unsettling. I’ve known a couple of Jews of color who’ve converted, who told me the rabbi said they would no longer need to worry about being black because now they’re Jewish.
Gulienne: I grew up pretty entitled to my Judaism—everyone knew my family or me. In college sometimes it was different—I’d go into Judaica shops, and the person working there would be like, “Oh, do you know how to use that?”


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