Friday, March 30, 2007

Reuniting With The Lost Tribes Of Israel


Monkette was out of the truck and sitting on the table already when Lumumba stopped by Starbucks for his after work cup of coffee. (To find out why Monkette was was sitting on the table see the story immediately below this one.) I first met Lumumba a month or two ago over a cup of afternoon coffee. Very much like me, he'll start up a conversation with anyone, including complete strangers. Over time I found out his whole name was Lumumba bin Yhwh and he was from the Transvaal Province in South Africa. I remarked that bin Yhwh meant "son of the king" or "son of God" and that led into a discussion on the similarities between the Hebrew and Arabic languages, along with his observation that my name Kaplan means "priest".

I guess I wasn't all that surprised at that point when he told me that his people, his tribe, had migrated over the years down the east coast of Africa from Ethiopia, and that like me he was Jewish. A bit more conversation that day and I had no doubts about it. Their practice of Judaism is a bit different from the way those of us from northern Europe, the Ashkanazi Jews, practice it, but it's obvious that it's just variations of a theme.

He grew up on a large farm that his parents own and he's well educated. He came here a couple of years ago with the intent of making it on his own rather than living off the family's wealth. Essentially he's set up a painting contractor business, mostly subcontracting to other developers, and employs nearly a dozen young black guys "recruited from the streets" as he puts it. He tries to keep them straight, off drugs, and turns their lives around by teaching them a trade and giving them a sense of responsibility. I suppose that his African background and distinctive accent makes him a believeable role model.

That first day we discussed the history of race relations here over the last few decades and I told him how much things had changed for the better, but I had to agree with him that we still had a few redneck cops who can be less than polite at times, and and l told him that if he ventures to smaller towns upstate it would likely be worse.

Since that first meeting we've run into one another nearly every afternoon and had some great conversations. As he puts it, we really are brothers.

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