The Forward recently reported that Michelle Obama, wife of Sen. Barack Obama, has a cousin once removed who is a rabbi on Chicago’s South Side. His name is Rabbi Capers Funnye (fuhn-AYE) and he is head of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation (House of Peace for the Children of the Ancient Ethiopian Hebrews).
WTTW Chicago (PBS) did a fascinating piece on Beth Shalom a while back:
My parents live north of Chicago and have been to Beth Shalom a number of times. They say that the energy of the building is unmatched and that curiosity about the traditions, prayers, and customs of African-American Jewry is received with enlightening conversation and gracious enthusiasm.
Indeed, according to The Forward, Funnye is known on Chicago’s Board of Rabbis and elsewhere for such dialogue:
[Funnye is known] for acting as a bridge between mainstream Jewry and the much smaller, and largely separate, world of black Jewish congregations, sometimes known as black Hebrews or Israelites. He has often urged the larger Jewish community to be more accepting of Jews who are not white.
Despite Funnye’s family connection to the Obamas (he attended Barack and Michelle’s wedding), he is not active in the campaign, saying only, “I know that her grandfather and her father and my mom and all of our relatives that are now deceased would be so very, very proud of both of them.”