Daily Israel Report

Barack Obama's Wife's Cousin Is a "Black Hebrews" Rabbi

Barack Obama's wife’s cousin is the rabbi of a Black Hebrew congregation.
By Aryeh Haffner
First Publish: 9/7/2008, 2:13 PM

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.

The Black Israelite congregations, often called Black Hebrews, are a very small and mostly separate stream from mainstream Judaism and are not recognized as Jews by the Chief Rabbanite of Israel.

Although Rabbi Funnye's congregation refers to itself as Ethiopian Hebrew, it is not connected to the Ethiopian Jews who have immigrated to Israel en masse in past decades and are recognized as Jews by the Israel Chief Rabbanite.

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, reportedly supervised by Orthodox and Conservative rabbis. He has a Black Israelite ordination.