On the Ninth of Av, synagogues around the world remember the destruction of the first and second Temples, as well as a litany of other Jewish catastrophes, from the expulsion of Spanish Jews in 1492 to the start of Nazi death camp deportations in 1942. At Beth Elohim in Queens, the congregation adds one more date to the list: August 8, 1444.
On that day, Portuguese traders embarked from Africa for the New World with a shipload of human cargo. The event, which tradition marks as the beginning of more than 400 years of slavery, has singular significance at this synagogue, where everyone - the rabbis, the Hebrew School teachers, the music director, on down to the last member - is African-American. (more…)