Black, Beautiful and Brokenhearted

July 19, 2023 by Lazer Brody

The old children’s expression says, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That does not come from a Torah source.

Shattered Souls

According the Torah, verbal abuse is a heinous transgression. It is so terrible that Hashem rejects the prayers of the abuser until the abuser plactes the victim. Why? Words don’t break bones, but they shatter souls. A mean word can rob a person of his or her joy in life or even will to live.

If regular verbal abuse is terrible and intolerable, verbally abusing a righteous convert is trebly so (see Lev. 19:33, Rashi’s commentary there, and Bava Metzia 58b).

The Long Road

With the above in mind, my heart broke when I received a letter from “Leah,” a righteous convert. She and her husband “Zev” (names changed to avoid embarrassing anyone) have been in contact with me for over a decade. I’ve witnessed their arduous journey from Southern Baptists to Noahides to Chassidic Orthodox Jews. It’s been a long road, and not at all simple. Leah and Zev are two of the most dedicated people I ever met.

Leah and Zev are a multi-racial family. She is black and he is white. Why dedicated? Leah’s dad is a leading pastor with a tremendous following. As a college student, Leah had everything – money, esteem and a bright future. She was the #1 catch that the brightest and best divinity students from the local university had their eyes on as a future wife. They knew that they’d have an intelligent, great-looking girl as well as a guaranteed position as dad-in-law’s assistant pastor in his very prestigious ministry. She gave it all up for the truth. She searched for Hashem and Hashem only. Today, she is on a spiritual level far beyond the average person who is born into an observant Jewish family. Zev is with her, hand and hand. They are incredible people.

The Letter

Here is Leah’s email letter to me, unedited. I repeat, my heart broke when I read it. See for yourself:


Hi Rav!

Hope you are well.

Something keeps happening to me, in particular this past 6 weeks or so. Little children look at me and call me a goy/goyah [literally “non-Jew” but in this context, a derogatory connotation – LB]. It’s happened on Shabbat on the way home from shul and in a kosher supermarket during the week.

It literally just now happened as I was waking my 4-year-old home, when a family with little children no more than 6 years old look at each other and say, “goy” to each other, while a younger child looks at me and hides behind his mother’s leg. Before the lights changed, I turned around and said, “No I am not. I am a Jew, just like you,” and I walked across the road and didn’t look back.

Should I be taking these moments as reflections in a mirror? Is there something in me still blemished from the old life? Am I not yet a true Jew with a holy neshama [divine soul – LB]?

Or is just the innocence of young minds who only see faces like mine when the house-cleaner comes or the guard at their school gate. There’s no way those black faces could be Yidden [Yiddish for “Jews” – LB]…

If I told you all the incidents, it wouldn’t be easy reading. I try not to cry but it does sting Rav, this is my reality and my portion in this lifetime. Please guide me. I’d so appreciate your wisdom on this.

With much admiration and respect, Leah.

My Response


Dear Leah,

My heart breaks when I read this. I will console you with four facts:

1) According to Halacha, little kids have the status of fools, where they cannot be responsible for their actions. Yet, their parents are certainly responsible. If a parent heard the child insulting you and condoned the child’s behavior and said nothing, then it is considered in Shamayim as if the parent insulted you. Although the parent is not liable for damages in a religious court, he or she will certainly be responsible in the heavenly court, for it is their duty to educate their children.

2) Children receive their prejudices from their parents – “A child says in the marketplace what he heard from his mother or father” (Succa, 56a). The child lacks sense and only mimics what Mom and Dad say at the dinner table.

3) Imagine that you encountered a child with severe Down’s Syndrome. Would you be insulted if such a child stuck his tongue out at you? Definitely, not! Since the child who insulted you lacks reason, it’s as if you were “insulted” by the facial contortion of a child with severe special needs who cannot control his facial gestures.

4) Insult is a magnificent soul correction that doesn’t affect our health or income. I strongly suggest that you read The Serene Soul, my book on coping with verbal abuse.

May I reprint this letter without mentioning your name? I think it would be a tremendous help and encouragement to many. You’re in good company. If Moses and his remarkably lovely dark-skinned wife Tzipporah lived in your neighborhood, she would probably be suffering the same fate.

Hashem loves you so much, and I’m happy to vouch for that. The joy that the Almighty has from you, Zev and the children is unfathomable. Send them hugs from me.

With every blessing, LB

The Takeaway

We’re now in the 9 days of mourning that culminate in Tisha B’Av, the day when our Holy Temple in Jerusalem burned to ashes. This was the terrible result of intramural hate among Jews. Now, more than ever, when the fire and smoke has not yet cleared even after 1,954 years of exile, we had better rectify this, fast. Hashem regards anyone who perpetuates racism, discrimination or ethnic hate (the Jewish People consists of multiple ethnic groups) in any way as being criminally responsible for destroying the Temple. Now is the time to be stringent on the mitzvah of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. We have too many enemies to afford the “luxury” of insult, injury and discrimation amongst ourselves. May Hashem wake us up before it’s too late.

3 comments on “Black, Beautiful and Brokenhearted”

  • Eliana Carter says:

    Thank you so much for putting Leah’s pain into perspective. As a “gerus of color,” I fully understand her pain. But being considerably older than Leah, I remember the same kind of pain in the workplace, in college, and on the streets during the Civil Rights movement. I remember being called the “N” word; I remember a good friend being spat upon in a restaurant in Manhattan while dining with a white schoolmate. I know people who endured much worse, including jail and beatings. Why? Because they wanted to vote, they wanted a decent place to live, they wanted a job they were more than qualified for. I’ve met several Jews of color (not just black) who want to leave the fold or at least just daven at home because of the way they are treated by Jews who think they are white. While Leah and Zev are not in that category, it is important to remind Jews of color to do their best to stand their ground. Those of us who are converts were called to Judaism by a much Higher Power than the kid hiding behind his mother’s skirt or even his father’s rabbi. Those of us who have been Jewish for generations know that nothing is accomplished by hiding away or running away. Stay in the synagogues. Stay in the yeshivahs. When they get in your face, you get in theirs, armed with words of Torah and gemara. Some Jews have forgotten these words. Some have forgotten their own history, which should have taught them not to denigrate others. It may be up to us to remind them. It will not always be easy, but with well-placed words repeated over and over and over (it usually pays to be a pest), one day enough of them will come to their senses and treat everyone with respect.

  • Eric John Nagel says:

    Blessed are those who suffer such as these beautiful folks. I’m greatly pained by such. It’s too common. It seems that the world is slipping into the the abyss not unlike the times of Noah. However, there is a great revival of Emuna. All this chaos is caused by those who call themselves religious who can only be described as the opposite of our Heavenly Father’s children. Hold fast to your Emuna. All this this can only be from our Heavenly Father and is for our good! All of us feel your pain and you must rejoice that you are not alone. Bless y’all.

  • The unexpected Jew says:

    Respectfully, Mr. Rav Brody even the un seemingly comparison regarding Moses and Ziporah shows the root of how ( white) Jews have perceived every story within Torah to reflect only of themselves. ( This takes all credibility and authenticity to oneself) ( mind you we do have Sephardi Mizrachi Yemenite Jewry that Moses would look more like ie brown Jews) Although, How innocent your comparison could be yet reality and evidence has shown that Moses along with Ziporah were of melanated Semitic characteristics, similar to our Arab cousins. So No not only in this day an age would Ziporah have been treated in this women’s neighborhood unkindly but also Moses. Neither would fit the ideal look in todays Jewish world. Yet even within yourself it’s inherent to a fix one’s image of such an elevated status and superiority into every fabric of life. Sadly this superiority ideal of one’s self even within our Jewish people won’t go a way,. Yet, the confidence and ever presence of our JOC should continue to assert their place within the folds of Am Israel.

    Ignorance is never a tool to use to discipline one’s soul. If her soul needed correction it would be on a soul level not physical. We need to stop coddling our offenders. The problem comes from a sense of privilege as if Hashem has closed the door already to all that are known to be His people. Never let the slave rule over the Master what we learn in Torah , and nowadays in our people we have too many slaves running around calling shots and acting racist and unloving to the Master’s children He chooses to be considered the collective. Let’s off set this behavior with truth, and as I mentioned earlier if Mainstream Jews wanted to compare themselves to the biblical Semitic Israel they themselves would be seen as an outsider. Comparing color or any type of features at this day an age is truly irrelevant since as you mentioned Mr. Lazer Brody all of jews nowadays are from “ multiple ethnic groups”

    Just an encouragement For all Jews reading: Only allow to be measured by the holy standards, ruling’s, judgements, decrees and knowledge of our Holy King , not by fallible souls we must occupy this world with. Blessings

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