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August 24, 2012

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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 24, 2012 TJCOate Profile: Y'ffat613 ABOUT ME: Creative, funny, warm-hearted, religious, and a great cook! Looking to settle down, but not to settle. MY LIFE & AMBITIONS: I'm a graphic designer, sick of doing bar mitzvah invitations, looking to take my career to the next level. ON OUR FIRST DATE, REMIND ME TO TELL YOU THE STORY ABOUT How a refrigerator light left on over Shabbat led to my losing a roommate. DON'T BOTHER ASKING ME TO Come to your Shabbat dinner if your idea of a fine wine is "the blue bottle." By Rina Bassist PRETORIA, South Africa (JTA)--Filmmaker Laurence Gavron is on a journey to document lost Jewish tribes in Africa. The French-born Gavron, who has made Senegal her home since 1989, says shewas immediately taken by the proj- ect, which she says combines her passion for Africa with the mystery of rediscovering Judaism. The film, titled"BlackJews, Juifs noir en Afrique," focuses on a dozen African tribes--in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and other countries--each with a Jewish story. Some claim to be descendants of the Bible's 10 Lost Tribes. Others believe that their ancestors were Jews who emigrated from Judea to Yemen looking for gold. Rabbinical authorities have not accepted any of the groups as Jewish under halachah, Jewish law, although all the tribes strive to be recognized as such at some level or another. Edith Bruder, who has been studying these Jewish groups for more than a de- cade and wrote the book "The Black Jews of Africa, History, Identity, Religion," turned to Gavron for the film, which is expected to be released in the coming months. "In sub-Saharan Africa, you can find 'Judaic' tribes in Ghana, Nigeria, Mall, Uganda, Cameroon, South Africa, Zim- babwe and even in Sao Tome and other countries. There are many of them," Bruder said. "It is really a vast subject." The two women are docu- menting Sabbath celebrations in remote African villages, Ghanaian Jews practicing circumcision and Jewish- African traditional marriage ceremonies. They have even been deep into the forests film- ing black Jews preparing their "kosher" meals--in their own tradition, the way the Torah explains it simply--not mix- ing the meat of the veal with its mother's cow milk. Filming a Shabbat service in Ghanawas a moving experi- ence, Gavron says. "At the end, [I was] re- ally very touched and almost started crying," she said. The French connection between Bruder and Gavron seems almost predestined: Gavron with her fascination for Africa and for her Jewish roots, and Bruder's research- ing of "Jewish-related sub- j ects" for most of her academic career. Their producer, too, is French: Anne Schushman of Scuch Productions. "I am very interested in Jewish people, being one, and in blacks, living in Africa and having become Senegalese," Gavron said. "So black Jews is something that was more than perfect for me." In the introduction to her documentary project, Gavron writes, "Who has the right to proclaim himself a Jew? Who can assert his connection to Judaism? Are these black Jews really a part of the Jewish people? And if not, why do they wish to be included?" Her own connection to Juo daism--a sense ofpeoplehood and culture--has mostly been alese pa Courtesy Laurence Gavron Laurence Gavron, a French-born filmmaker whose film 'Black Jews, Juifs noir en Afrique" tells the story of African tribes that claim to have Jewish ancestry. background music, she says, past three years, most re- and making the film has "re- cently choosing Macky Sall kindled" those feelings, as president over incumbent Gavron, who keeps busy Abdoulaye Wade, who was making films, writing de- criticizedforhisgrandioseliv- tective stories, organizing ing style. That, alongwiththe cultural evenings, making new laws designed to promote video clips and curating photo gender equality, maywell play expositions, among other in Gavron's favor in the next pursuits, recently made his- elections. toryinheradoptedhomeland. As to her "home party," In July, she became the first Gavron is the perfect match woman toubab--Senegalese for what Tekki is striving to naturalizedwhiteperson--to achieve, says El Hadrji Sarr, be on an electoral list for par- a Tekki leader who supported liament. With a victory, she Gavron's candidacy. would have become the first "Laurence is a Senegalese Jewish member of Senegal's in every means and ways, parliament, even though she is white," he Gavron, 57, hadn't given said. "She has a natural place much thought to political within our electoral list." involvement in the Muslim- Gavron has long split her dominatedcountryuntiljusta time among France, Africa few months ago.At a cocktail and Israel. Although a Sen- party in Dakar, theSenegalese egal citizen who makes her capital, shebeganspeakingto permanent home in Dakar, MamadouLamineDiallo, who she says that when she visits heads Tekki, aleft-wingparty. Paris, she suddenly feels that "I told him how much I is home again, as if she never share with him the values left the place~ Israel, mean- defended by his party: trans- while, remains her spiritual parency, citizenship activism homeland, she says. and ethics," she said. "He im- Her first visit to Senegal, mediately asked me if I cared a former French colony in to join as a candidate for the western Africa, came in 1987 upcoming elections." for an international film festi- The offer "enchanted me," val. She continued to go back Gavron said. "I felt it was a and forth before making it wonderful way to repay this her permanenthomein1989. country, which has embraced Widowed for several years by me without any restraint or then, Gavron says she decided hesitation. It is my way to it was time for a real change. pay my gratitude backto the She became a Senegalese Senegalese people, citizen in 2007. Gavron was able to run The night before she left only because the Senegalese Paris for the permanentmove parliament adopting an equal to Dakar, Gavron says she was gender representation act two inexplicably drawn to visit the years ago, obliging political Jewish quarter of Paris. parties to present an equal "I curiously found myself number of male and female walking towards the Marais," candidates. And although she she recalls, where she bought did not win the election, the a mezuzah. experience convinced her to "Being Jewish is important remain politically active-- for me, even though I do not and she believes the results practice Judaism every day," would be different the next she said. "I am attached to time around, my Jewish identity and to Senegal has undergone the cultural elements which significant changes in the differentiate me from others."