Project Genesis

Basics of Judaism

Chosen People

Black Hebrews and Racism

Question: What is the relationship and or difference between the Black Jews and the European Jews? I live in Virginia and I do not see many Black Jews that fellowship with White and European Jews. I have also met some Black Hebrews that make subtle statements about racism within the Jewish nation. Why is skin color an issue?

Answer: Working on an article for Essence Magazine, some years ago, I interviewed some of the Black Hebrews’ leadership in Israel, mostly in Dimona, as well as the U.S. Embassy people assigned to their issues. I wanted to contrast the Black Hebrews, who were mostly very nice black folks from Chicago, D.C., St. Louis, Detroit, New York and Baltimore, with some actual black Jews, the B’nai Israel or Falasha, the Ethiopian Jews.

After just a little prodding, the Black Hebrews made it clear to me that they do not believe in HaShem, the God of Israel. Most of the ones I talked to declared that they believe in Jesus, and they held to the usual Xtian idea that all those statements in the Bible, where G’d commands the Jews to keep His laws and statutes Ad Olam, from here to eternity, had all been wiped away and nullified by the advent of the Xtian man-god, Jesus. One of the Black Hebrew elders told me that, besides Jesus, he considered the main leader, Ben-Ami Carter, to be god, or G’d – whatever.

The Black Hebrews regard themselves, or anyway claim to regard themselves, as truer Jews than any “so-called” Jews or Hebrews – partly because they are mostly Xtians, who consider themselves to be the True Israel, or Spiritual Jews, and partly because they think that Judaism, or Hebrewism, or Israelism (whatever), is purely a matter of ancestral blood descent, that the “original Jews” like Abraham, Moses, David, etc., were black, and that black people are, therefore, their only true heirs.

The Black Hebrews practice polygamy, one man to more than one women, and they regard this as the only truly Hebrew, and only truly “black,” way to go. They had a very high birthrate. I noticed that the men helped very little with the children, believing that diaper-changing and dish-washing, for instance, are purely “woman’s work,” and most of the child rearing that I could see going on was children raising children.

The children, who were almost all born in Israel, spoke good colloquial Hebrew, much better than mine. But they looked kind of shiftless and no-account to me, doing chores like sweeping and caring for their siblings in an unenthusiastic, uninspired, grudging sort of way. And I never saw even one of them reading a book or playing a musical instrument or doing anything that looked like school homework.

As for the Ethiopians, they struck me as just regular Jews – new immigrants, trying to get used to the ways of their new/old country, many struggling with things like family re-unification and lots of trouble and trauma still present from their past, as a persecuted minority in Ethiopia, but very ambitious and hopeful for the future.

Their men helped around the house, with diapers and dishwashing and all that sort of stuff. Their families seemed pretty stable, as near as I could see like Jewish families generally, with the men working in construction and agriculture and gardening and the like, and the women more home- and child-centered than the Black-Hebrews. But what really impressed me were the kids. The boys that I saw ALL wore yarmulkes, pinned to their kinky hair, and some had on visible tzitzis, the ritual fringes that males wear in the day.

What I heard from the educators in town was that the Ethiopian kids generally exceeded their teachers’ expectations, not so much in language but in math, particularly, while they attended school religiously. As for the Black Hebrews, they didn’t like the public school system, as I heard, and mostly “home-schooled” their children – and, I suspect, didn’t school them too rigorously.

You got the sense, looking at the children, that the Black Hebrews were raising up a generation of maids and laborers for the Ethiopian Jews to employ.

One needs to realize that the Jewish people, the People of Israel, are a world people – rather like Americans in this sense – made up of people of every race and color and practically every nationality. I don’t know any Australian aborigine Jews, or New Guinean Jews, personally, but I’m sure we’ve got some: they won’t be “pure”-blooded anything, but they will have Jewish mothers, or – to be more precise – Jewish maternal grandmothers, or they’ll be Orthodox converts, or the children of an Orthodox Jewish female convert. The People of Israel are a microcosm of the whole species of humankind, related by blood and united by Torah – we are a nation only by virtue of our Torah – to help raise and refine the whole human race throughout the “higher-consciousness” practices and principles of Sinai. We are a revolutionary people – and part of the nature of our service to mankind is that we continually try to impress upon mankind the inherent oneness of humanity, the fact that every human being of every race and color exists in the very “Image of G’d,”. We are the principal human agents of a great holy world revolution – we have been around since the Pyramids, to help develop humankind into something worthwhile, and we will be around forever, basically, until “the end” – or anyway the next stage in human history.

Being people, of course, we have flaws. We don’t always live up to the higher consciousness principles that we exist to publicize and make operational in the world. Some of us have been known to steal, some of us have committed murder, and some of us have some black-white prejudice. But if you want to look at the history of black folks in the world, or in America, you will find that the one people who gave them by far the most help in the world, who helped them develop their talents and gifts, and who exploited them least, are not the WASPS, the Muslims, the Buddhists, or non-Jewish atheists, but the People of Israel.

By the way, you might check out my book, on the Torah’s universal Law or Way for all humankind, Rainbow Covenant.

Michael Dallen
First Covenant Foundation

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