Four Important Things to Know About the Black Hebrew Israelites

The Black Hebrew Israelites have made the national news several times this year. It was the Black Hebrew Israelite cult that instigated the mob against the Covington School students (we called them at the time, “members of a preposterous and hostile cult”). But most recently, the Black Hebrew Israelites have made the news because of the anti-Semitic attack against the New Jersey kosher market.

That shooting, which involved a man and woman who killed three people at the Jersey City grocery Tuesday in addition to gunning down a police officer at a cemetery were reportedly involved with the Black Hebrew Israelites movement.

As the most trusted source for polemics and discernment, Pulpit & Pen needs to apprise you of four things you need to know about the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement.

They’re older than the Civil War

The Black Hebrew Israelites are not a new movement, even though there’s been a resurgence of their aggressiveness. Although there are disagreements as to who exactly started the cult that began in the 1840s, the group splintered off in 1896 (after the Civil War) by William Crowdy, called The Church of God and Saints of Christ.

Both groups claim to have originated from an original “Black Hebrew” group traced to 1841 or 1842 at an unknown source.

Other spin-off sects include that started by Yahweh Ben Yahweh (1935 – 2007) and Hulon Mitchell, Jr. There are other sects of this broad Hebrew Israelite movement known as the Commandment Keepers, The Law Keepers, House of Judah, and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem.

They’re not Hebrew and they’re rabidly anti-Semitic

Most Black Hebrew Israelites believe the myth that black people are descendants of the Biblical Israelites and that Caucasians (which is how they classify ethnic Jews) are under the curse of God. Those claiming to be ethnic Jews, they claim, are especially wicked. 

Some Black Hebrew Israelites try to adhere to Rabbinic Judaism, but for most, there’s very little connection to the Hebrew Bible. While many Black Hebrew Israelites claim not to be racist, many believe that only black people are the elect of God.

Black Hebrew Israelites can regularly be seen in public repeating White Supremacist, Aryan, and Neo-Nazi talking points against the “Zionist Jews.”

They’re known for their aggressiveness, but should better be known for their heresies

Most know Black Hebrew Israelites for the type of public demonstrations that you saw with the Covington boys in January of 2019. They are aggressive, hostile, and demonstrate publicly.

These groups stand on street corners of major cities use foul language to condemn people. They typically speak harshly and are physically intimidating, often wielding weapons.

Although they use Hebrew words such as Yah, Yeshua, and Shabbat [Sabbath], along with keeping Jewish customs like circumcision, dietary laws, and holidays, they are largely ignorant of the Hebrew Bible and deny almost all fundamentals of New Testament faith (as would be expected).

Most believe in a Jewish Messiah called Yahshuah Ben Yah (Jesus son of God) but are skeptical that this is the same “Jesus of Nazareth” worshipped by Christians. They often believe in “calling upon Yahshuah Ben Yah” but deny the Trinitarian nature of God, the divinity of Yahshuah Ben Yah, deny the doctrine of hell, Justification by Faith, Penal Substitution, and generally see some ethic groups as incapable of being saved.

Their racism is almost identical to the White Identity Movement

When I interviewed Thom Robb of the Ku Klux Klan for a paper on counter-culture sub-groups for my Masters Degree in Public History at Arkansas State University, I discovered that Robb and his followers in the Harrison, Arkansas area with the Knights of the KKK (Robb took over for David Duke in 1988) believed that white people are real Jews and that Jews were imposters.

Oddly, this is the same view held by Black Hebrew Israelites; that Jews are imposters and that they are real Jews (DNA tests be damned, apparently).

Project Meggido, an FBI report on racism in 1999 listed the Black Hebrew Israelites as a particularly dangerous group and noted their “beliefs bear a striking resemblance to the Christian Identity theology practiced by many white supremacists.”