Barack Obama's wife's cousin is a Rabbi, according to the Jewish magazine Forward. Michelle Obama's first cousin once removed, Capers Funnye, shepherds the flock at a mostly black Israelite synagogue on Chicago's South Side, the Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew synagogue.
Forward reports that Rabbi Funnye's mother, Verdelle Robinson Funnye (pronounced fuh-NAY), and Mrs. Obama's paternal grandfather, Frasier Robinson Jr., were sister and brother.
Rabbi Funnye converted to Judaism in a ceremony supervised by the Black Israelite rabbis. He later underwent another conversion procedure, supervised by Orthodox and Conservative rabbis. He has a Black Israelite ordination.
Black Jewish congregations, often called Black Hebrews, are a very small and mostly separate stream from mainstream Judaism. Rabbi Funnye works to bridge those gaps. He and his congregation are ardent Zionists.
Although Rabbi Funnye's congregation refers to itself as Ethiopian Hebrew, it is not connected to the Ethiopian Jews who have come home to Israel en masse in past decades. Those call their communities Beta Israel.
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We welcome you and your interest in Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation (House of Peace for the Children of the Ancient Ethiopian Hebrews). As stated in Psalm 133:1, "...how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
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