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Guangzhou, China - Obama Half-brother Has Jewish Roots

Published on: November 4, 2009 09:07 PM
By: AP
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President Obamas half-brother Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo holds a press conference prior to a book launch in Guangzhou, China, on Nov. 4, 2009. Ndesandjo, who has lived Southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, has broken his silence and launched his debut novel. (Mike Clarke - AFP/Getty Images)President Obamas half-brother Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo holds a press conference prior to a book launch in Guangzhou, China, on Nov. 4, 2009. Ndesandjo, who has lived Southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, has broken his silence and launched his debut novel. (Mike Clarke - AFP/Getty Images)

Guangzhou, China — President Barack Obama’s half brother has broken his media silence to discuss his new novel — the semi-autobiographical story of an abusive parent patterned on their late father, the mostly absent figure Obama wrote about in his own memoir.

In his first interview, Mark Ndesandjo told The Associated Press that he wrote “Nairobi to Shenzhen” in part to raise awareness of domestic violence.

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“My father beat my mother and my father beat me, and you don’t do that,” said Ndesandjo, whose mother, Ruth Nidesand, was Barack Obama Sr.‘s third wife. “It’s something which I think affected me for a long time, and it’s something that I’ve just recently come to terms with.”

Like his novel’s main character, Ndesandjo had an American mother who is Jewish and who divorced his Kenyan father. The novel, which goes on sale Wednesday by the self-publishing company Aventine Press, is one of several books in the works by relatives of the president.

President Obama’s parents separated two years after he was born in Hawaii in 1961. The senior Obama, a Kenyan exchange student, divorced the president’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, in 1964 and had at least six other children in his native Kenya.

For the past seven years, Ndesandjo has been living in the booming southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, and has refused all interview requests until now.

Ndesandjo, who said he attended Obama’s inauguration as a family guest, declined to discuss his earliest memories of the president or describe their relationship over the years. However, he said he plans to meet his brother in Beijing when the president makes his first visit to China on Nov. 15-18.

“My plan is to introduce my wife to him. She is his biggest fan,” he said.

Shortly after divorcing the president’s mother, Obama Sr. met Nidesand while studying as a graduate student at Harvard University. Nidesand returned with Obama Sr. to his native Kenya in 1965, where Mark and his brother David were born and grew up. David later died in a motorcycle accident.

In Kenya, Obama Sr. also had four children with his first wife, Kezia, some of them while he was still married to Nidesand. Nidesand and Obama Sr. eventually divorced amid allegations of domestic abuse. Nidesand returned to the United States and later married a man whose surname Mark Ndesandjo took.

Obama Sr. died in an automobile accident in 1982 at age 46.

President Obama saw his father only once after his parents’ divorce, when he was 10 years old. In a best-selling memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” Obama wrote about his fatherless upbringing and search for identity.

In it, Obama described a visit to Kenya to meet his half siblings and learn more about his father. While painting his father as abusive, he called Obama Sr. a gifted but erratic alcoholic who never lived up to his intellectual promise or his family responsibilities.

Obama, in his book, also quotes Ndesandjo criticizing their father, saying, “I knew that he was a drunk and showed no concern for his wife and children. That was enough.”

Ndesandjo, who is an American citizen, spent most of his childhood in Kenya before moving to the U.S. to go to college and work in telecommunications and marketing. He has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in physics and a master’s degree in the same subject from Stanford University. He also earned an MBA from Emory University in Atlanta, he said.

“I see myself in many ways as a person who has many places, has feet in many places,” he said.

Intensely private, Ndesandjo declined to answer several questions about himself. He even refused to give his age, saying only that “I’m younger than Barack.”

With a trim, athletic physique, he has a strong resemblance to his taller brother in Washington. His left ear is pierced, and he wore a black crew neck shirt under a dark jacket to the interview last week.

Ndesandjo moved to China after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when his job was cut in the rocky U.S. economy. He taught English, immersed himself in the study of Chinese culture and volunteered as a piano teacher at an orphanage.

He now speaks Mandarin and said he earns a living as a consultant in strategic marketing, though he would not elaborate on his business.

Ndesandjo said the White House was aware of the book project. A White House spokesman declined to comment on Ndesandjo’s interview or to discuss President Obama’s relationship with his half brother.

The author said 15 percent of the book’s proceeds would be donated to charities for children.

Closely patterned on Ndesandjo’s own life, the novel depicts David, an American who leaves the U.S. corporate world after the 9/11 attacks to create a new life in China. He falls in love with a Chinese dance instructor and develops a bond with an orphan who is a gifted pianist battling a serious illness.

In the book, David also writes letters to his American mother asking for details about her failed marriage to his late abusive Kenyan father.

In one passage, Ndesandjo writes, “David easily remembered the hulking man whose breath reeked of cheap Pilsner beer who had often beaten his mother. He had long searched for good memories of his father but had found none.”

Ndesandjo said such passages were drawn from his own experience.

“I remember situations when I was growing up, and there would be a light coming from our living room, and I could hear thuds,” he said in the interview, tears welling in his eyes. “I could hear thuds and screams, and my father’s voice and my mother shouting. I remember one night when she ran out into the street and she didn’t know where to go.”

Ndesandjo said his mother often called Obama Sr. “a brilliant man but a social failure.”

The novel never mentions other wives David’s father might have had. Nor does it include a half brother who would become the first black U.S. president.

On Wednesday, a week after speaking to the AP, Ndesandjo said at a book-launching news conference that his brother’s election victory, among other recent events, helped “peel away the hardness” that he developed emotionally during his difficult childhood.

“I became proud of being an Obama,” he said.

Since the election, he said the extra attention has changed his life, but he has coped by focusing on things that are important to him: music, writing, calligraphy and teaching piano to disadvantaged children.

“The simple things sort of help pull you through,” he said.

Ndesandjo told the AP he didn’t want to touch on any political themes in the book. “I think my brother’s team is doing an extraordinary job and I really don’t want to cause him additional heartburn,” he said.

Besides the inauguration, he said he last visited his brother in Austin, Texas, before a debate last year with then-Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“He came up to me, and we hugged. I gave him a gift, a gift of calligraphy,” Ndesandjo told the AP. “I was just thinking of how happy I was and how proud and how much I loved him.”

“It was a very powerful experience.”

Another of the president’s half brothers, George Obama, 27, of Huruma, Kenya, has penned a memoir that will be published by Simon and Schuster in January 2010.

Other Obama relatives working on books include a half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, daughter of Obama’s mother and her second husband, Lolo Soetoro; and Craig Robinson, first lady Michelle Obama’s brother.



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Read Comments (42)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Nov 04, 2009 at 09:19 PM Anonymous Says:

So if his mother is jewish, he is jewish. That's more than just "roots."

2

 Nov 04, 2009 at 09:26 PM Loshon Hora Says:

Sheloi Yoimru Och Lonu Beveis Hamelech.
OY VWEY

3

 Nov 04, 2009 at 10:21 PM Anonymous Says:

How many bros this president have?!

4

 Nov 04, 2009 at 10:03 PM Anonymous Says:

If it turns out our President is a yid, it would be the biggest kiddush hashem since the establishment of medinas yisroel in 1948. All of his policies are framed within the values of a yid (i.e. concerns for the poor, the hungry, those who need health care etc) so it wouldn't surprise me if he truly was a yid.

5

 Nov 04, 2009 at 09:47 PM Anonymous Says:

He sounds like a very interesting man. He grew up is such difficult circumstances and without a good father, yet he has accomplished a lot and gives back to others. I'm impressed.

6

 Nov 04, 2009 at 09:45 PM Anonymous Says:

Maybe the president will invite his half-brother to his seder this year

7

 Nov 04, 2009 at 11:41 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

If it turns out our President is a yid, it would be the biggest kiddush hashem since the establishment of medinas yisroel in 1948. All of his policies are framed within the values of a yid (i.e. concerns for the poor, the hungry, those who need health care etc) so it wouldn't surprise me if he truly was a yid.

No, he is in Arab. This is his half brother that indeed is Jewish.

8

 Nov 05, 2009 at 07:20 AM End of Days Says:

Yishmael also had a brother that was Jewish.

9

 Nov 05, 2009 at 06:06 AM Anonymous Says:

I will not purchase or read any of these books.

10

 Nov 05, 2009 at 05:52 AM Rochel Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

No, he is in Arab. This is his half brother that indeed is Jewish.

Barack Obama isn't an Arab, and if he's father is Kenyan his father isn't an Arab either.
Still a lot of people make the mistake to think that muslim/arab = same thing !
Maybe his father was muslim, and in Islam religion passes through the father, and it would make Barak Obama a muslim according to Islam tradition/law, but as far as the world know, Barak Obama never said he was a muslim, and since he was raised by his christian mother and her family, it would make him more a xian than a muslim.
But why focusing on this more than real important things like... politics, since he's the President !

11

 Nov 05, 2009 at 04:41 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

If it turns out our President is a yid, it would be the biggest kiddush hashem since the establishment of medinas yisroel in 1948. All of his policies are framed within the values of a yid (i.e. concerns for the poor, the hungry, those who need health care etc) so it wouldn't surprise me if he truly was a yid.

Genius- the half brothers mother was Jewish- not Barack Obama's- he is the same goy he was yesterday!!

12

 Nov 05, 2009 at 03:31 AM ephraim Says:

I'm just leaving Guangzhou now after spending the last 3 days there. We waited 10 minutes for a Minyan for Mincha last night, if only he would have told us this before!

13

 Nov 05, 2009 at 01:34 AM Liberalism is a Disease! Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

If it turns out our President is a yid, it would be the biggest kiddush hashem since the establishment of medinas yisroel in 1948. All of his policies are framed within the values of a yid (i.e. concerns for the poor, the hungry, those who need health care etc) so it wouldn't surprise me if he truly was a yid.

This man has more brothers and half bros than we could count so fo'getaboutit!

14

 Nov 05, 2009 at 01:33 AM Liberalism is a Disease! Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

If it turns out our President is a yid, it would be the biggest kiddush hashem since the establishment of medinas yisroel in 1948. All of his policies are framed within the values of a yid (i.e. concerns for the poor, the hungry, those who need health care etc) so it wouldn't surprise me if he truly was a yid.

those are not emesdika yiddishe values. sorry!
you are a lefty and those are lefty values.

15

 Nov 05, 2009 at 12:09 AM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

If it turns out our President is a yid, it would be the biggest kiddush hashem since the establishment of medinas yisroel in 1948. All of his policies are framed within the values of a yid (i.e. concerns for the poor, the hungry, those who need health care etc) so it wouldn't surprise me if he truly was a yid.

There is no evidence I've ever seen that the President's mother, the late Dr. Stanley Ann Dunham, was Jewish. But her own tragic story is inspiring: After two failed marriages, with a child from each, she earned a PhD in anthropology at the age of 49, doing original research on village industries in Indonesia, gathering evidence in favor of economic diversity (which contradicts some of the conventional "wisdom" of development). But she died of cancer at the age of 52 before much of her work could be published. (Her mentors have edited her work and it is to be published later this year.) President Obama has been quoted as remembering his mother being worried more about how she would pay her medical bills than whether she would be able to survive the cancer.

16

 Nov 05, 2009 at 09:09 AM Anonymous Says:

Sounds like a really "wonderful" family to me.

17

 Nov 05, 2009 at 09:05 AM Anonymous Says:

Look up Barack's geni profile and u can see his mothers roots are jewish. (Follow mothers mother etc.)

18

 Nov 05, 2009 at 09:02 AM PMO Says:

Reply to #14  
Liberalism is a Disease! Says:

those are not emesdika yiddishe values. sorry!
you are a lefty and those are lefty values.

Feeding the poor is not a yiddishe value? "Yiddishe" does mean "Jewish" right? Are you sure you are a yid?

Of course they are yiddishe values.

It's how we go about doing those things and the government involvement in those things that makes them "lefty" or "righty".

19

 Nov 05, 2009 at 08:19 AM ridiculous bobe maiseh Says:

to say that obama's halfbrothers mother was Jewish,you would have to bring a few more proofs to give that credibility, I doubt that she really was Jewish.

20

 Nov 05, 2009 at 09:40 AM Anonymous Says:

It's like Woody Allen said, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.

21

 Nov 05, 2009 at 10:05 AM Sol Says:

Now I am totally confused. How many brothers does the president have? I am loosing track about the fathers ,mothers ,half sisters and brothers. Could someone clarify?

22

 Nov 05, 2009 at 10:28 AM LIBERALISM IS A DISEASE!! Says:

Reply to #18  
PMO Says:

Feeding the poor is not a yiddishe value? "Yiddishe" does mean "Jewish" right? Are you sure you are a yid?

Of course they are yiddishe values.

It's how we go about doing those things and the government involvement in those things that makes them "lefty" or "righty".

so lefty lemme 'slpain this to you slowly so you could understand it better.

yiddishe values - torah values - as it relates to tzedoka means you are not FORCED to give it. while you have a mitzva d'oraisa to give tzedoka, it is voluntary for you to give tzedoka to whomever you want. generally, all thigs being equal, I am not forced to give you more or less than any other chaim yankel shmoyga.

don't give me this hypocrisy about the liberals as having yiddishe values because there is just about NOTHING about a liberal which falls in line with Torah values.

23

 Nov 05, 2009 at 10:45 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #19  
ridiculous bobe maiseh Says:

to say that obama's halfbrothers mother was Jewish,you would have to bring a few more proofs to give that credibility, I doubt that she really was Jewish.

I believe it. I think your doubts stem from the fact that the father is Kenyan. They met at Harvard. It's entirely credible to me. The mother and this man had nothing to gain by saying she was jewish if she wasn't.

24

 Nov 05, 2009 at 10:32 AM Anonymous Says:

i bet the chinese put him up to it as a ploy to expand the power over the white house

25

 Nov 05, 2009 at 10:26 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
End of Days Says:

Yishmael also had a brother that was Jewish.

You said it well and your name is also very fitting.

Just a few weeks ago we were informed that Achmadinijad, President of Iran, is Jewish. Are they perhaps related?

26

 Nov 05, 2009 at 11:38 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #22  
LIBERALISM IS A DISEASE!! Says:

so lefty lemme 'slpain this to you slowly so you could understand it better.

yiddishe values - torah values - as it relates to tzedoka means you are not FORCED to give it. while you have a mitzva d'oraisa to give tzedoka, it is voluntary for you to give tzedoka to whomever you want. generally, all thigs being equal, I am not forced to give you more or less than any other chaim yankel shmoyga.

don't give me this hypocrisy about the liberals as having yiddishe values because there is just about NOTHING about a liberal which falls in line with Torah values.

you must be confused about the definition of the word liberal.
and you know whats not a jewish value? being forced to do things, like wee were in yeshiva in brooklyn, like wearing farshtukineh ganser hats in the dead of winter cuz our menahel shlita was concerned that the ppl passing us in cars while waitning for the van in the morning would care the about "how frum" the boys in his yeshiva were over the other kids waiting on crner from a different school who didnt wear hats. such emesdike yiddishe values!

27

 Nov 05, 2009 at 11:35 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #14  
Liberalism is a Disease! Says:

those are not emesdika yiddishe values. sorry!
you are a lefty and those are lefty values.

sure they are. what is considered "emesdike" jewish values to you? cholent fressing?

28

 Nov 05, 2009 at 11:34 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
Liberalism is a Disease! Says:

This man has more brothers and half bros than we could count so fo'getaboutit!

and just how man mccain's from how many marriages and adoptions do you think there are?

29

 Nov 05, 2009 at 11:33 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

No, he is in Arab. This is his half brother that indeed is Jewish.

um how exactly is he an arab? if these two have the same father and the pther is jewish, and baracks mother is a white woman from kansas whos family goes back to colonial times, how in the world does that make barack an arab???

30

 Nov 05, 2009 at 11:16 AM Anonymous Says:

There are more people in this world with SOME Jewish blood in them then there are full blooded Jews.

31

 Nov 05, 2009 at 10:59 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #25  
Anonymous Says:

You said it well and your name is also very fitting.

Just a few weeks ago we were informed that Achmadinijad, President of Iran, is Jewish. Are they perhaps related?

"Just a few weeks ago we were informed that Achmadinijad, President of Iran, is Jewish"

The Mossad debunked that story.

32

 Nov 05, 2009 at 10:56 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

If it turns out our President is a yid, it would be the biggest kiddush hashem since the establishment of medinas yisroel in 1948. All of his policies are framed within the values of a yid (i.e. concerns for the poor, the hungry, those who need health care etc) so it wouldn't surprise me if he truly was a yid.

I saw in a family tree (Barak's) that the line through his mother's mother etc. Was headed by two females with Jewish names

33

 Nov 05, 2009 at 02:45 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Rochel Says:

Barack Obama isn't an Arab, and if he's father is Kenyan his father isn't an Arab either.
Still a lot of people make the mistake to think that muslim/arab = same thing !
Maybe his father was muslim, and in Islam religion passes through the father, and it would make Barak Obama a muslim according to Islam tradition/law, but as far as the world know, Barak Obama never said he was a muslim, and since he was raised by his christian mother and her family, it would make him more a xian than a muslim.
But why focusing on this more than real important things like... politics, since he's the President !

Actually he reportedly does have a lot of Arab blood on his father's side. But you are right Muslim ≠ Arab. Iranians aren't Arabs and neither are Pakistanis or Malaysians to name a few. The Arabs were the slavers and that's one way they spread Islam.

34

 Nov 05, 2009 at 02:42 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

If it turns out our President is a yid, it would be the biggest kiddush hashem since the establishment of medinas yisroel in 1948. All of his policies are framed within the values of a yid (i.e. concerns for the poor, the hungry, those who need health care etc) so it wouldn't surprise me if he truly was a yid.

Barak Hussein is not a Yid. This brother has a different mother. A Jewish American who married a Moslem as his third wife out of four concurrent ones. Hate to break it to everyone but Islam espouses those values too. They got them from us. Too bad they didn't learn to eschew the less lovely ones also.

35

 Nov 05, 2009 at 02:47 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #20  
Anonymous Says:

It's like Woody Allen said, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.

Actually it was Andy Warhol who said that 8-)

36

 Nov 05, 2009 at 03:43 PM Anonymous Says:

He could rewrite the old addum from "some of my best friendse are jewish" to "some of my favorite half siblings are jewish"

37

 Nov 05, 2009 at 04:18 PM Neviah Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

If it turns out our President is a yid, it would be the biggest kiddush hashem since the establishment of medinas yisroel in 1948. All of his policies are framed within the values of a yid (i.e. concerns for the poor, the hungry, those who need health care etc) so it wouldn't surprise me if he truly was a yid.


Obama's father apparently had at least 3 wives.....

Obama's mother is not a Yid, but Obama's half-brother's mother appears to be a Yid.

38

 Nov 05, 2009 at 05:37 PM Baruch "Spinoza" Obama Says:

The ealier matriarch on GENI is Sarah Wade (Ray) Bunch. (1793 - 1874). It seems her mother was born in Tennessee. But there very few Jews, if any in colonial Tennessee. Thus, I doubt Obama could be considered Jewish.
But let's not forget that Michelle's cousin is Rabbi Capers Funnye.

39

 Nov 05, 2009 at 06:44 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #22  
LIBERALISM IS A DISEASE!! Says:

so lefty lemme 'slpain this to you slowly so you could understand it better.

yiddishe values - torah values - as it relates to tzedoka means you are not FORCED to give it. while you have a mitzva d'oraisa to give tzedoka, it is voluntary for you to give tzedoka to whomever you want. generally, all thigs being equal, I am not forced to give you more or less than any other chaim yankel shmoyga.

don't give me this hypocrisy about the liberals as having yiddishe values because there is just about NOTHING about a liberal which falls in line with Torah values.

You, with your nasty way of speaking to a fellow Jew is certainly not in accordance with torah values. You should be ashamed of yourself.

40

 Nov 05, 2009 at 06:42 PM A Says:

Reply to #19  
ridiculous bobe maiseh Says:

to say that obama's halfbrothers mother was Jewish,you would have to bring a few more proofs to give that credibility, I doubt that she really was Jewish.

Why don't you bring proof that you're Jewish?

41

 Nov 05, 2009 at 06:39 PM A Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

I will not purchase or read any of these books.

Thank you for informing us, I know it was very important to you.

42

 Nov 06, 2009 at 09:50 AM PMO Says:

Reply to #22  
LIBERALISM IS A DISEASE!! Says:

so lefty lemme 'slpain this to you slowly so you could understand it better.

yiddishe values - torah values - as it relates to tzedoka means you are not FORCED to give it. while you have a mitzva d'oraisa to give tzedoka, it is voluntary for you to give tzedoka to whomever you want. generally, all thigs being equal, I am not forced to give you more or less than any other chaim yankel shmoyga.

don't give me this hypocrisy about the liberals as having yiddishe values because there is just about NOTHING about a liberal which falls in line with Torah values.

Wow. Not only was your comment full of odd (almost bizarre) bitterness, but clearly you have a reading comprehension problem as well.

Who said anything about forcing people to do anything? I just said feeding the poor was a Torah value. It is. If you continue to read, I clearly said that it is GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT (or lack thereof) which makes it "lefty" or "righty" in political terms. Perhaps it is I who had better explain things more slowly to you. Clearly you do not understand the difference between LEFT and RIGHT.

43

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