A black, Orthodox rabbi’s novel addresses racism in the Jewish community


Shais Rishon’s latest book, “Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi,” tells the story of a 20-something black spiritual leader. (Courtesy of Rishon)

NEW YORK (JTA) — When Shais Rishon thinks of American Jewish literature, virtually no Jews of color come to mind — as characters or authors.

“We’re invisible, pretty much,” he told JTA.

As an African-American Orthodox rabbi, Rishon hopes to change that.

He recently published a semi-autobiographical novel titled “Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi,” under his pen name, MaNishtana. The main character, Ariel, is a 20-something black rabbi navigating life and work in the New York Jewish community while attempting to reconcile his identities.

Rishon, 36, says many of the racist experiences Ariel faces within the Jewish…

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