At the weekly meeting of Rotary of Atlanta West End, President Paige – pinch-hitting for Mark Newman – presented his guest speaker, Dr. John Eaves, former Fulton County Commission Chairman.

John began by saying that Mark and John are both members of The Temple, the internationally famous Atlanta synagogue. John noted that he is one of The Temple’s few African American members, and further, there are not many Jews in the U.S. who are African Americans. John later noted that there are, nevertheless, a number of prominent African American athletes, writers, and entertainers among as many as 200,000 African-Americans who are members of the Jewish faith.

Ethiopia has thousands who converted to Judaism, as long as a thousand years ago, and are officially recognized by the State of Israel as Jewish, though recently they’ve encountered hostilities from some Jews in Israel. John mentioned his grandfather, also a black man practicing his Jewish faith, faced criticism sometimes from other blacks. Further, John said, his grandfather told him being black gave whites, including white Christians, two reasons to fire him – being black and being a Jew.

As a teenager and athlete, John was a good football player but could not play Friday night games because of Jewish services. During his senior year there were, however, two Saturday games in which John played. Because of his performances in those games he earned college scholarships, including to his alma mater Morehouse College where he was team captain.

John said he’s particularly grateful to be a member of the Temple. He serves on the board, and has membership in several committees, including ones dealing with social justice and mass incarceration of people of color. John admits that despite his notoriety as a politician – he’s running for the U.S. Congress in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District – he’s not known to many as a Jew. He, however, is by no means avoided sharing his faith allegiance.

Today, he emphasized that there is no downside to promoting his Jewish faith, but even if there were, he’s still grateful for the blessings of his faith. And – in choosing a variation of lyrics sung by legendary performer, James Brown, John says: “Say it loud, I’m black and a Jew and proud!