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Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI)

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Black Hebrew Israelites(BHI) also known as Black Hebrews, or, Hebrew Israelites are groups of African-Americans situated mostly in the United States who claim to be descendants of the ancient Israelites. Not to be confused with African Hebrew Israelites, or Beta Jews they claim that they are Alpha Israelites and that they are not Africans at all, but were merely sold into slavery from Africa.

They claim they are refugees of the so-called "First Jewish-Roman War" avoiding the holocaust at Masada In 73 AD. In 70 AD they claim to have fled Judea into the interior of West Africa, and sojourned there some 1,500 years. Their Shemetic ancestors were sold by Hametic Africans, to Ishmaelite-Arabian slave traders, who (in turn) sold them to European, Trans-Atlantic Slave Traders in the early 1600’s.

They assert that the Negroes, and Indians of North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean are all descended from the twelve Israelite patriarchs. They use many prophecies in the Hebrew Bible to show similarities to the predicted fate of the descendants of the Israelites in the "latter days". They most often cite the 28th Chapter of the book of Deuteronomy as proof that the predicted condition of the Israelites more closely matches their own, than that of today's Caucasian Ashkenazi, and Sephardic practitioners of Judaism.

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African American and African Caribbean Christianity had long developed a comparison of their experience in the New World with that of the Jews held in slavery in Egypt, particularly as regards the Book of Exodus. From the mid-eighteenth century a metaphorical embrace of a Hebrew identity was a major element of New World African spirituality. Thus in 1800 Gabriel's slave conspiracy in Virginia identified themselves with the Israelites of the Old Testament, as was Denmark Vesey's attempted rebellion of 1822. However it was not until later in the nineteenth century that an identification as ancient Hebrews developed from identification with biblical prophecy.

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Groups within the BHI movement:

bullet Church of God and Saints of Christ: The Church of God and Saints of Christ is a BHI religious congregation organized in 1896 by Prophet William Saunders Crowdy. The members of this congregation believes they are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel. In 1906, Prophet Crowdy passed his mantle of leadership to three successors: Chief Joseph W. Crowdy, Bishop William H. Plummer, and Counselor Calvin S. Skinner. Counselor Skinner consecrated for leadership Rabbi Howard Z. Plummer, who prior to his demise ordained Rabbi Levi S. Plummer. Currently, the congregation is led by Rabbi Jehu A. Crowdy, Jr. The Church of God and Saints of Christ has headquarters in Belleville (Suffolk), VA with tabernacles across the United States, Jamaica, and Africa.
bullet Church of the Living God: F. S. Cherry founded a Black Jewish movement called the Church of God in Philadelphia in 1915. Theologically it mixed Judaism and Christianity, although the Jewish Bible and the Talmud were considered the essential scriptures. Several Jewish practices and prohibitions were observed by Cherry’s flock. The movement has been reported to survive under the leadership of Cherry’s son, but little information about it has been disseminated.
bullet African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem: The African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem is a small religious group whose members believe they are descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. With a population of over 2000 men, women and children residing in three development towns Dimona, Arad and Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel. communal lifestyle, a vegan diet, a system of preventive health care and a claimed high moral standard - - a holistic approach to life. Their stated intent is to live according to the laws and prophecies of God.

In 1966 their spiritual leader, Ben Ammi, had a vision that it was time for the Children of Israel who remained in America (the land of their captivity) to return to the Holy Land (the land of their origin).

In 1967, after a claimed two thousand years in the Diaspora, four hundred Hebrew Israelites left America. According to their plan, they settled in Liberia’s interior to purge themselves of the negative attributes they had acquired in the captivity. After spending a two-and-one-half year period in Liberia, The African Hebrew Israelites prepared to make the last portion of their journey home, a journey to Israel in 1969.

bullet Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge: This group has undergone some evolution and has spawned several permutations over the last forty years. A man named Abba Bivens in 1960s Harlem started the group. It was originally called the Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISU.P.K.), but later changed its name to the Israeli Church of Universal Practical Knowledge (I.CU.P.K) as part of a plan to get tax exemption status, though some splinter groups still call themselves ISUPK.

A split in the leadership of the school occurred, and I.C.U.P.K. lost much of its membership. Although they have physically retained the school, they gave up all claims to I.S.U.P.K and re-emerged in the new millennium as Israelite Church of God and Jesus Christ (ICGJC). Those that left before this new incarnation retain the name of the original school started by Abba Bivens (I.S.U.P.K) and consider themselves to have remained true to the original nationalist agenda of Bivens. They refuse to refer to the messiah as "Jesus Christ", or the creator of Heaven and earth as "God", but as YAHAWAH (God) and YAHWASHI (Joshua).

bullet Israelite Church of God and Jesus Christ: The ICGJC and its various splinter groups can be loosely grouped together as sects which advocate a King-James-Version-only approach to the Bible (i.e. they only endorse the KJV as scripture), the belief that white people are Edomites (it should be noted that other so-called "Black Israelite" sects declare white people to be descendants of Japheth), and claim to speak "Lashawan Qadash" (a form of Hebrew grammatically identical to Modern Israeli Hebrew, save for the absence of any vowel except 'a' and 'i'). The Black Israelites seen preaching on the streets of many American cities are of this cohort. Unlike most BHI sects, the ICGJC is also open to Hispanics and Native Americans, who are believed to be among the 12 tribes of Israel. They produce a television program called "The Hidden Truth of the Bible", which airs on many public access stations across the country. Websites endorsing the views of this branch of the Black Israelite community include

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Religious beliefs:

The Black Hebrew Israelites of New York City, a Yahoo! forum, lists the following correspondences between the ancient twelve tribes of Israel and modern-day inhabitants of the western hemisphere:

Ruben = Seminole Indians (Muskogee).
Simeon = Dominicans of Hispanola.
Levi = Haitians.
Judah = African Americans.
Dan = Cubans.
Naphtali = Argentineans & Chileans.
Gad = Native Americans.
Asher = Incas.
Issachar = Aztec Indians and other Mexicans.
Zebulon = Mayan Indians and other inhabitants of countries from Guatemala to Panama.
Ephraim & Manasseh = Taino & Boriqua Indians and other Puerto Ricans
Benjamin = Carribe, Cibao, Arrowack, and other inhabitants of Guyana and the West Indies.

Many Black Hebrew Israelites are at odds over the religious aspects of mainstream Judaism and tend to reject Jewish conversion because of its heavy reliance on the Talmud which has been edited exclusively by European-born rabbis since the 8th century, often superseding the teachings of Torah, and so most Black Hebrew Israelites reject the Talmud, and the Kabbalah as being contrary to the will of YHWH and the testimony of Moses.

The remaining number tends to split along the lines of Messianic, and non-Messianic, ironically inheriting the European Judeo-Christian dichotomy from European schools of thought.

B.H.I. groups tend to reject the notion of returning to Israel, as citizens of the sovereign Israeli government, preferring a more religious and prophetic return to sovereignty a new covenant with their God YHWH.

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Racism and anti-semitism:

Because they believe that the Tanakh forbids them from allowing "whites" —Jews of relatively light complexion whom they call "Caucasians", as opposed to Semites—into their congregations, a number of Black Hebrew Israelite groups have been thought of as racist, being mirror images of Black Christian Identity groups to whom the concept of race is unnecessarily made an issue. They insist that these "Caucasian," non-Semitic Jews are not descended from Israelites at all, but rather from Edomites and Khazars. As such, BHI groups have been accused of anti-semitism, a term which they reject as Black people are in fact Shemetic, disacknowledging the fact that, in modern usage and in this context, the term ‘anti-Semite’ almost exclusively refers to antagonism towards Jews.

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BHI literature

bullet Arthur Koestler, "The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage," Random House, 1976. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
bullet Rudolph R. Windsor, "From Babylon to Timbuktu: A History of the Ancient Black Races Including the Black Hebrews, " Windsor Golden Series, (1988). Read reviews or order this book
bullet Shadrock, "The Forgotten Israelites: God's Chosen People," Fifth Ribb Pub., (1991). Read reviews or order this book
bullet Shadrock, "The Truth, The Lie, and The Bible III," Fifth Ribb Pub., (1995). Read reviews or order this book
bullet Shadrock, "The Word, The Israelites, and The Damned by Shaddrock," ISBN# 9694907-3-9, at:

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External links:

The following hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
bullet The Israelite Nation at:
bullet Church of God and Saints of Christ at:
bullet Hebrew Heritage at:
bullet The Lawkeepers at:
bullet "A Web Portal for the Hebrew Israelite Community" at:
bullet The Southern Poverty Law Center, " internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups." Their web site has three references to the BHI movement:
bullet Mark Potok, "The Spreading Flood of Hate," (1998) at:
bullet Khalid Muhammad, "With Our God and Our Gun," (2000) at:
bullet "Behind the Walls : An expert discusses the role of race-based gangs and other extremists in America's prisons," (2002) at:

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BHI Forums:

bullet The Black Hebrew Israelites of New York City at:
bullet Yehoshua Revealed [9]
bullet The Original I.C.U.P.K. [10]
bullet The B.H.I. Personals [11]

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This essay, with the exception of the list of correspondences and links to the Southern Poverty Law Center  was copied on 2006-MAY-30 from a Wikipedia essay "Black Hebrew Israelites" at: Used by permission.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.

Originally posted: 2006-MAY-30
Latest update: 2006-MAY-30
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