Join a free, virtual Jewish Book Council Talk with Scholar Laura Arnold Leibman, Author of Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family

Hosted by Falmouth Jewish Congregation and the Worcester JCC

Thursday, February 10 at 2pm

On Zoom and broadcast live on FCTV Public Channel 13

Click here to register for the Zoom meeting, which allows you to participate in the Q & A:

The public is invited to a free, virtual Jewish Book Council Author Talk by scholar Laura Arnold Leibman about her engaging historical study Once We Were Slaves: The Extra­or­di­nary Jour­ney of a Mul­ti-Racial Jew­ish Family, which brings to light “the fluidity of America’s racial boundaries and the multiracial threads of Jewish history” (Publisher’s Weekly). This event, hosted by Falmouth Jewish Congregation and Worcester JCC, will take place virtually on Thursday, February 10 at 2:00 P.M. You can view the program on Zoom and on FCTV, which will carry it live on FCTV Public Channel 13 in Falmouth. You can find the Zoom registration link and more information about the JBC author talk series at Books are available from Eight Cousins Bookstore in Falmouth and can be ordered in person, by phone or online at

"A richly contextual history of multiracial Jews and their travails and triumphs in the New World." --Kirkus

Once We Were Slaves is an engaging work of historical scholarship that follows a
family through its rises and collapses of fortune and, in the process, strips away damaging misconceptions about the homogeneity of America's Jewish community." --Foreword Reviews

An obses­sive geneal­o­gist and descen­dent of one of the most promi­nent Jew­ish fam­i­lies since the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, Blanche Moses firm­ly believed her mater­nal ances­tors were Sephardic grandees. Using fam­i­ly heir­looms to unlock the mys­tery of Moses’s ances­tors, Once We Were Slaves over­turns the reclu­sive heiress’s assump­tions about her fam­i­ly his­to­ry to reveal that her grand­moth­er and great-uncle, Sarah and Isaac Bran­don, actu­al­ly began their lives as poor Chris­t­ian slaves in Barbados. Tracing the siblings' extraordinary journey throughout the Atlantic World, Leibman examines artifacts they left behind in Barbados, Suriname, London, Philadelphia, and, finally, New York, to show how Sarah and Isaac were able to transform themselves and their lives, becoming free, wealthy, Jewish, and—at times--white. While their affluence made them unusual, their story mirrors that of the largely forgotten population of mixed African and Jewish ancestry that constituted as much as ten percent of the Jewish communities in which the siblings lived, and sheds new light on the fluidity of race--as well as on the role of religion in racial shift--in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Lau­ra Arnold Leib­man is a Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish and Human­i­ties at Reed Col­lege and the win­ner of a Jor­dan Schnitzer Book Award and four Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards. Her work focus­es on reli­gion and the dai­ly lives of women and chil­dren in ear­ly Amer­i­ca and uses every­day objects to help bring their sto­ries back to life. She is the author of Indi­an Con­verts (U Mass Press, 2008) and Mes­sian­ism, Secre­cy and Mys­ti­cism: A New Inter­pre­ta­tion of Ear­ly Amer­i­can Jew­ish Life (Val­len­tine Mitchell, 2012), which won a Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award, a Jor­dan Schnitzer Book Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion for Jew­ish Stud­ies, and was select­ed as one of Choice’s Out­stand­ing Aca­d­e­m­ic Titles for 2013. Known, too, for her schol­ar­ship in Dig­i­tal Human­i­ties, Lau­ra served as the Aca­d­e­m­ic Direc­tor for the award-win­ning mul­ti­me­dia pub­lic tele­vi­sion series Amer­i­can Pas­sages: A Lit­er­ary Sur­vey (2003).