Rabbi Capers Funnye of Chicago was nominated to become what an international organization is calling the first “black chief rabbi” of the 21st century. Funnye, a cousin of first lady Michelle Obama, is expected to officially assume his duties in the fall.
It should be remembered that this organization is not affiliated with any of the international Jewish organizations and its members are not recognized as being Jews. The Black Hebrews and groups like them declared themselves to be jews without any conversions and some consider them to be a cult.
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A statement from the International Israelite Board of Rabbis declared that “Rabbi Funnye will become the titular head of a world-wide community of Black Jews that includes the denomination of Black Jews founded by Rabbi W.A. Matthew in Harlem in 1919, with branches throughout the United States and the Caribbean.
“Other Black Jews affiliated with this organization include the Lemba of South Africa, the Abayudaya of Uganda, and communities of Black Jews in Nigeria. Rabbi Funnye’s work with Black Jews in the United States and Africa made him uniquely qualified for this position. His goal as Chief Rabbi is to build closer ties with the Ethiopian Jewish community that was transplanted to Israel.
Rabbi Funnye has made several trips to Israel where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pressed for greater acceptance of Black Jews around the world. In addition, Rabbi Funnye happens to be a cousin of Michele Obama and has met several times with President Barak Obama at the White House.
Rabbi Funnye’s mother Verdelle (Robinson) Funnye was a sister of Michelle’s paternal grandfather Fraser Robinson, Jr. He is 12 years older than Michelle. While their families frequently visited when they were young, the two of them got to know each other more as adults.
Funnye was raised in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and was influenced by movements for civil rights and black nationalism. After meeting with Rabbi Robert Devine, the spiritual leader of the House of Israel Congregation in Chicago, which practiced a kind of messianic Judaism, he joined his congregation. (Wikipedia)
Rabbi Funnye is expected to officially assume his duties as Chief Rabbi in the fall. The formal induction ceremony will take place in Chicago where he is the spiritual leader of Beth Shalom Bnai Zaken E.H. Congregation and the only Black rabbi on the Chicago Board of Rabbis.