Black Israelites!

I’ve heard of the Black Israelites before, but this article in The Forward from a couple of days ago is the most in-depth piece I’ve ever read about them.

Here’s the video that goes with the article:

The lost tribes of Israel…in the Bronx from Yardena Schwartz on Vimeo.

I also met one who was working in the men’s department at Century 21 in downtown Manhattan a few months ago. We had a nice chat about wearing tzitzit, but no kippah, if you can believe that! He was very knowledgeable and knew at least as much Hebrew as I do.

If y’all fortify me with some courage, I’ll go to their [shul?] and review a service….

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6 Responses to Black Israelites!

  1. Glenda February 4, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Fortify you? You need fortification?

  2. Yakov Wolf February 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    I’ve heard of Black Israelite communities, and I’ve always had questions about them. Like, do they study Talmud, or would that be anachronistic since the Ten Tribes were lost before the writing of the Talmud? Does an individual have to convert to Black Israelitism? And what relations are there between Black Israelites and Mizrahim? I’ve never known how to get the answers to these.

    Gotta agree with Glenda, though. Fortification for what?

  3. yardena schwartz February 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    They actually do study Talmud! They don’t require people to convert, because to them, all black people are Israelites, whether they know it or not. Hope that answers some of your questions…

    • David A.M. Wilensky February 4, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

      Indeed. I got the sense from something the guy said in the video that they see Jewish tradition as a natural continuance of their own tradition, which they lost for a long time. So they pick up many later Jewish customs because they still logical outgrowths of the ancient tradition that they lost.

      I think.

    • Yakov Wolf February 4, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

      It does! Thanks, Yardena.

  4. Larry Kaufman February 4, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    Be sure to read the comment from Diane Tobin and Rabbi Capers Funnye on the Forward site, commenting on the exceptionalism of this group among African Americans practicing Judaism.

    Some fifteen years ago, Rabbi Funnye ( a highly regarded figure in Chicago) explored the idea of his congregation affiliating with the then UAHC, and I was part of a UAHC group that went to the South Side to meet with the B’nai Zaken board. I still remember that they all had Biblical names, and that any interest in possible identification with the Reform movement dissipated when they ascertained our open attitudes on GLBT issues. I can still hear Isaac, or maybe it was Solomon, expostulating, But it says in the Torah…. Before we left, we were all offered an opportunity to buy a copy of their Sisterhood Cookbook, which included a recipe for turkey with melted cheese. Other than those two markers, I don’t remember too much about their Jewish practices, because they were so engrossed in learning about Reform Judaism — and determining that it was not a fit for them.