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This letter is in response to the article posted in the April Forum written by Wil Gafney:

While I am pleased to read Ms. Gafney's article, I am extremely irate at the reason it had to be done. First of all, Rabbi Michael Lerner needs to understand that he doesn't have a clue about the subject which he is discussing, namely the ability of African American preachers, fundamentalists or otherwise, to deal with the biblical text.

I can say for a fact that twenty-four years ago, I taught Hebrew at Howard Divinity School, and I was not the first. I taught African Americans from all denominational groups, including pentecostal tongue-speaking ministers who wanted to learn how better to understand the word of God.

Ms. Gafney's concern about gender issues aside momentarily, let me say that not one African American biblical scholar or preacher needs to engage Rabbi Lerner in a dialogue. We have nothing to prove. But, for the record, I was born and raised Jewish; I no longer am. I have been reading and writing Hebrew since age 4, went through yeshiva, studied in Israel, majored in Hebrew and studied at JTS and did advanced degrees in Judaica and Hebrew Bible. I was the Hebrew section of the foreign languages department at a well known Community College for many years. In total, I have taught Hebrew for four decades, and yes, I have taught Hebrew in fundamentalist Bible colleges where they wanted to understand better what it was they were preaching.

Rabbi Lerner's condecension is at best inane and at worst racist. For the record, I say this to all of my fellow African American biblical scholars: Let us get on with the business of our work as scholars and let the Michael Lerner's of this world continue to show us who and what they are. Life is too short as is precious time. Neither we nor anyone who deals with the Bible should have to defend ourselves— fundamentalist or otherwise. To do so is a waste of time and to give more credence to his comments than they deserve. I applaud Ms. Gafney's work, but I also say My Sister, don't waste your time trying to prove what is already evident.

Naomi P. Franklin, St. Jerome Biblical Studies Institute, Basseterre, St. Kitts

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Citation: , " Response to Gafney," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited April 2006]. Online:


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