Obama’s Rabbi Relative

By Arnab Datta

Sep 14, 2008 11:57am

So, nu?

How has this escaped mention by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in his swings through Southern Florida?

The Jewish Daily Forward reports that one of Michelle Obama’s cousins is the most prominent African-American rabbi in the U.S., Rabbi Capers Funnye, chief rabbi of Chicago’s Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation.

A shul with soul — check it out.

Michelle Obama’s paternal grandfather, Frasier Robinson Jr., was the brother of Funnye’s mother, Verdelle Robinson Funnye (born Verdelle Robinson).

"Although Funnye’s congregation describes itself as Ethiopian Hebrew," the Forward reports, "it is not connected to the Ethiopian Jews, commonly called Beta Israel, who have immigrated to Israel en masse in recent decades. It is also separate from the Black Hebrews in Dimona, Israel, and the Hebrew Israelite black supremacist group, whose incendiary street harangues have become familiar spectacles in a number of American cities. Funnye converted to Judaism and was ordained as a rabbi under the supervision of black Israelite rabbis, then went through another conversion supervised by Orthodox and Conservative rabbis. He serves on the Chicago Board of Rabbis."

In other Obama-and-the-Jews Democratic fardeiget, a group of Jewish liberals are devising a plan to help Obama win older Jews in Florida.

It’s called The Great Schlep, and I have no idea how much of this will actually come to fruition, but the plan is to hit these older Jews where they live by having their grandchildren head down to Florida over Columbus Day weekend to convince their grandparents to vote for Obama.

"If there is anyone a Jewish grandparent will listen to it’s their (brilliant, gorgeous) grandchild," writes the organizer. "TheGreatSchlep.com Web site will target, engage and activate Jews 18-24 years old — the Facebook generation. A viral Internet campaign will allow the Jewish young people, a.k.a. Schleppers, to communicate with and meet other Schleppers. Then, on Columbus Day weekend (October 10-13), Jewish kids from all over the United States will schlep to Florida to spend the weekend with their grandparents, a.k.a. Bubbie and Zadie. Organized dinners at Chinese restaurants, pool parties, rec room discussion groups, etc. will faciliate (sic) intergenerational pro-Obama discussions. The kids will arrive in Florida with the facts about Obama — facts that will counteract the false rumors many of their grandparents have heard."

Perhaps Rabbi Funnye can be brought on board.

- jpt

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