Gimme a Torah

Nell Carter

Think all blacks vote straight Democratic? Think there are no black followers of Judaism? Think African-Americans and Jews don't get along? Say any of this to Tony Award-winning actress Nell Carter, who will be speaking to the Jewish Federation Tuesday about her conversion to Judaism, and she'll say, "Gimme a break."

"The press, for some reason, will not acknowledge that there are black Jews," Carter says. "There are Jews in Egypt. There are Jews in lots of Arab countries. There are Ethiopian Jews, there are Jews in Africa, there are Jews everywhere."

As for Jewish/black relations, Carter thinks that's also blown way out of proportion by a Caucasian-dominated news media. "When was the last time you heard that a Jew did something to a black person?" Carter asks. "The big companies that are … letting people off aren't run by Jews."

Carter, who was born Catholic, first found herself drawn to the religion at the age of 12. Then in her twenties she began to read different Bibles and compare texts. She officially converted while married to her former husband, an Orthodox Jew, though she claims his faith had nothing to do with her decision. For one thing, Carter says, Jews never seek out converts. "He was so against my converting because … the other Jews would think that he did it."

Of her three children, Carter's oldest daughter is Christian, and her two sons are being raised Jewish, though she has no problem with whatever religion they eventually choose. "If they decide in the end they don't want to be Jewish, then so be it." Nor is her speech intended to win over any new converts. She simply wants to tell people why she did it, and show them it's "not a phase."

She might just break a few stereotypes in the process.


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