Yo, Hebrew-Israelites, I’m really happy for you, and imma let you finish, but Milli Vanilla had one of the best co-opt acts of all time! Of all time!
But seriously, let’s get ahead of this right tf now:
The Black Jewish community and the Hebrew-Israelite community are not the same thing.
We do not share a community.
We do not share the same struggle.
We do not fight the same battle for legitimacy. 2/x
Black Jews come in secular, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, et al. 3/x
Hebrew-Israelites fall under a large umbrella, ranging from the infamously militant Power Rangers found in Times Square (RIP Tommy), to those whose practices are nearly indistinguishable from “traditional” or even “Orthodox” Judaism. 4/x
In fact, here’s a brief history:
•The Church of G’d and Saints of Christ (now known as Temple Beth-El): Founded in 1896 by William S. Crowdy, a southern Baptist who never belonged nor converted to any branch of Judaism. 5/x
•The Church of the Living G’d, Pillar of Truth for All Nations: Founded in 1915 by F. S. Cherry, a southern Baptist who never belonged nor converted to any branch of Judaism. 6/x
•Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation of the Living G’d Pillar and Ground of Truth, Inc.: Founded in 1919 by Wentworth A. Matthew, a non-Jew who never belonged nor converted to any branch of Judaism. 7/x
•The Congregation of the Moorish Zionist Temple: Founded in 1923 by Israel Ben Newman and Mordecai Herman, two non-Jews. Neither Newman nor Herman ever belonged or converted to any branch of Judaism. 8/x
•Beth B’nai Abraham: Founded in 1927 by Arnold Josiah Ford, son of an Evangelical minister. Ford never belonged nor converted to any branch of Judaism. 9/x
•Bethel Holy Commandment Church (now known as Congregation Temple Bethel): Founded in 1951 by Louise Elizabeth Dailey, daughter of a Southern Baptist minister. Dailey never belonged nor converted to any branch of Judaism. 10/x
•The Hebrew-Israelite Community of Dimona, Israel: Founded in Israel in 1963 by Benjamin Carter, aka Ben Ammi, and 300 Hebrew-Israelites. They gained resident status, but many never converted to any branch of Judaism. 11/x
•The Israelite Rabbinical Academy: An outgrowth of the Royal Order of Ethiopian Hebrews founded by Wentworth A. Matthew in 1925 and renamed by Levi Ben Levy, a Hebrew-Israelite leader, in 1970. 12/x
The title of “Rabbi” which is awarded to the Academy’s graduates, and the International Israelite Board of Rabbis upon which many of its graduates sit, are not recognized as authoritative titles or bodies outside of Hebrew-Israelite circles. 13/x
So, it’s slightly hard for Hebrew-Israelitism to be any kind of form of Judaism, “mainstream” or not, if no sect of it has ever been started by anyone actually Jewish, regardless of how many observant Jewish elements it appropriates. 14/x
Just because you identify with something does not necessarily make you that thing.
Singing the Star Spangled Banner, saying the Pledge of Allegiance every day, and identifying with the USA doesn’t make a Canadian an American citizen. 15/x
Having extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology, and calling yourself “Doctor” doesn’t automatically make one a doctor. Saying that you “identify” with being Jewish, or deciding to begin observing Jewish rituals doesn’t automatically make one Jewish. 16/x
Additionally, since conversion to Judaism is not a requirement to join the Hebrew-Israelite community, nor do they advocate undergoing a Jewish conversion, they still remain largely un-Jewish, irrelevant of how close to traditional Jewish practice or prayerbook they are. 17/x
By the way, are there Black Jews whose first personal or familial exposure to Judaism was through the Hebrew-Israelite movement?
And Malcolm X's first exposure to Islam was through the Nation of Islam. And then he went to Mecca and became a Muslim of an actual Islamic denomination. 19/x
And look, “progressive” and “religiously liberal” White Jewish fam, I get it. You’re reluctant to discount the Hebrew-Israelites as being Jews due to their lack of adherence to normative Jewish practices for fear of seeming hypocritical 20/x
or out of fear of reprisal from more observant branches declaring that you, likewise, are not Jewish because you also disregard some traditional normative Jewish practices and interpretations of Jewish law. 21/x
However, the flaw in that logic is that—regardless of how far flung the practices are vis a vis traditional Jewish law—the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Humanistic movements were all started by actual Jews. 22/x
Being Jewish and deciding to do less doesn't make one not Jewish anymore. Conversely, being not-Jewish and taking on Jewish practices does not instantly make one Jewish. 23/x
You might be the most terrible driver in the world, but you have a driver’s license. Someone else might be the most amazing driver in the world, but they don’t.And that makes all the difference between getting behind the wheel of a car and it being legal or it being a crime. 24/x
Point of fact, none of the White supremacist groups who adopt Jewish rituals and believe that they are the true Jews—like, say, The Church of True Israel—are considered to be Jewish or a sect of Judaism, right? 25/x
The Hebrew Roots movement, despite being Torah-observant, getting circumcised, and wearing tefillin, are still seen as being Torah-observant gentiles, correct?
Put it in blackface, however, and you're willing to ignore all the glaring evidence and will in fact commiserate with said congregations as they cry "White Jews don't accept us as Jews because we're Black" 27/x
instead of kindly interjecting with an "Um, they don't accept you as Jews because you're actually not Jews. You just *happen* to also be Black." 28/x
(I mean, assuming you’re not a bad faith actor using a fascination with Hebrew Israelites as a distraction away from the very real issues that normative Judaism has with race in its very own pews 29/x
and perpetuating an oppression in Jewish spaces that there’s a place “over there” for Afro-Caribbean Jewry.)
And as for #teamhebrewisraelite
, let us reason together, you and I. 31/x
If y’all wanna do you, then just do you. There’s more than enough room for diverse Black religious expression in the world. Go ahead. Believe that Black people are the true Jews. Believe that White Jews are Edomite converts. 32/x
(Which, by the way, even if they were, I believe Deuteronomy 23.7 has a little something for you about not hating them “for they are your brothers.”). 33/x
Call yourselves Israelites. Hebrews. Hebrew-Israelites. Black Hebrews. Hebrelites. Israelews.
Knock yourselves out.
Just stop calling yourselves *us*. 34/x
Because when your main website is blackjews.org
, that’s exactly what you’re doing. When you’re saying you’re “Black Jews,” that’s what you’re doing. 35/x
Regardless of how ideologically or theologically diverse your denominations are, all of the branches of the Hebrew Israelite religion hold fast to the core tenets of pride in the chosenness of being Black as being a starting point to Judaism rather than an enhancement of it 36/x
and the belief that the laws of Jewish identity stipulated either in halacha or those changes instituted by the Reform movement do not apply to you. 37/x
There’s no question that the Hebrew Israelite religion didn’t evolve out of a vacuum. 38/x
For a race of people breaking away from slavery-imposed Christianity who were not always embraced by “normative” Jews, Hebrew Israelite theology granted many access to the benefits of Jewish observance and a self-identification with a direct path to Upstairs. 39/x
But whereas normative Judaism sees self-identification as a start, not an end, Hebrew Israelite ideology declares, “That’s enough.”And there is the difference between us. 40/x
Because that path has always been open for those willing to do the work to walk on it, yet you choose to stand on the sidelines with an excuse and a facsimile, withdrawing from anything touched by mainstream Judaism 41/x
(except occasionally mainstream Jewish money and resources). 42/x
Black folk rarely win at respectability politics, and sadly most outsiders will just come away with this conflict being an issue of in-fighting 43/x
instead of realizing that we’re talking about two different species that happen to look really similar but are nothing alike, like butterflies and moths. 44/x
But hey, it’s not like Black Jews haven’t been having these conversations for generations or anything… 45/x