Apologetics Index

Black Hebrew Israelites

Black Hebrew Israelites: A diverse, black supremacy movement consisting of various sects.

Also known as Black Hebrews, African Hebrew Israelites, and Hebrew Israelites, the movement consists of diverse groups (‘camps’) of people mostly of Black African ancestry. The primary doctrine they have in common is that they believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites.

Most followers themselves only use the term ‘Hebrew Israelites,’ since the movement also includes Latino members (although the latter have lesser standing).

Black Hebrews adhere in varying degrees to the religious beliefs and practices of mainstream Judaism, but are not accepted as Jews by the Jewish community.

Many Black Hebrews consider themselves — and not mainstream Jews — to be the only authentic descendants of the ancient Israelites.

Black Hebrews have no central authority, and the beliefs and practices of Black Hebrew groups vary considerably.

Many of the groups are polygamous and many have authoritarian leaders along with cult-like characteristics.

Black Hebrew Israelite sects include “The Stream,” “Original African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem,” “Nation of Yahweh (Yahweh Ben Yahweh),” “New York Yahweh,” “Black Hebrews,” etcetera.

Many of the sects (or ‘camps’) that identify themselves as part of this movement are considered racist hate groups.

Although most Hebrew Israelites are neither explicitly racist nor anti-Semitic and do not advocate violence, there is a rising extremist sector within the Hebrew Israelite movement whose adherents believe that Jews are devilish impostors and who openly condemn whites as evil personified, deserving only death or slavery. […]

Mobile clusters of up to a dozen extremist Hebrew Israelite street preachers, known in the movement as “camps,” have become a common presence at busy intersections, plazas and public transportation centers in large American cities, especially in Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., as well as Venice, Calif. The camps are often remarkably aggressive and intimidating, railing against “white devils” and calling for death for Jews and gay men and lesbians.

Zacharyah ben Ya’aqov, a former racist Hebrew Israelite who was active in the movement in the 1990s, calls the activities of camps “evangelical terrorizing.”
– Source: Racist Black Hebrew Israelites Becoming More Militant, Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, August 29, 2008


Vocab Malone, pastor of Roosevelt Community Church in Phoenix, Arizona frequently interacts with Black Hebrew Israelites. He indentifies 10 key beliefs as follows:

1: Hebrew Israelites believe that modern American minorities — both black and brown — are the true descendants of Biblical Israel.

2: Hebrew Israelites believe that modern day Israelites and Europeanized Jews are impostors and not the real descendants of true Israel.

3: Hebrew Israelites usually hold the King James Version of the Bible as authoritative. Some only hold to the Old Testament and many hold to the Apocrypha as well.

4: Hebrew Israelites believe the “time of the Gentiles” means “the time of the white Europeans.” They believe this time is almost over; America and its allies will soon be judged.

5: Hebrew Israelites believe salvation is achieved by keeping the Law. Strict Sabbath-keeping, dietary restrictions and a certain physical appearance are important (e.g., beards are good, hats are bad).

6: Hebrew Israelites believe that Jesus was a black man.

7: Many (not all) Hebrew Israelites believe that white people can’t be saved. Instead, they are destined to be servants for African Israelites after the Black Messiah returns.

8: Hebrew Israelites believe both heaven and hell are merely “states of mind.” Neither are viewed as metaphysical realities as they are in orthodox Christianity.

9: Hebrew Israelites believe you must refer to God as “Yah” and Jesus as “Yahshuah Ben Yah.”

10: Hebrew Israelites believe that by spreading their message they are helping to gather the scattered Israelites who do not yet know the truth of their ancestry and heritage.
– Source: Vocab Malone, Who are the Black Hebrew Israelites?

Black Hebrew Israelites (also Black Hebrews, African Hebrew Israelites, and Hebrew Israelites) are groups of people mostly of Black African ancestry situated mainly in the United States who believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites. Black Hebrews adhere in varying degrees to the religious beliefs and practices of mainstream Judaism.

They are generally not accepted as Jews by the greater Jewish community, and many Black Hebrews consider themselves — and not mainstream Jews — to be the only authentic descendants of the ancient Israelites. Many choose to self-identify as Hebrew Israelites or Black Hebrews rather than as Jews.

Dozens of Black Hebrew groups were founded during the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. In the mid-1980s, the number of Black Hebrews in the United States was between 25,000 and 40,000. In the 1990s, the Alliance of Black Jews estimated that there were 200,000 African-American Jews, including Black Hebrews and those recognized as Jews by mainstream Jewish organizations.
– Source: Black Hebrew Israelites, Wikipedia entry

The actual origin of B. H. I.s stretches back to before the Civil War. In 1896 there was a sect founded in Kansas by William Crowdy. Shortly after that, new congregations sprouted in several major cities, and by the 1980s other sects began to appear.

One sect is the infamous Miami based sect which was started by Yahweh Ben Yahweh, otherwise known by the authorities as Hulon Mitchell, Jr. This sect will be discussed in greater detail later in this article. Other sects include the Commandment Keepers, The Law Keepers, House of Judah, and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem (just to list a few). Ben Israel, originally named Ben Carter (from the south side of Chicago), started the latter sect, The Kingdom of Yahweh, around 1967.

Ben Israel impressed upon other blacks the belief that African-Americans descended from the biblical tribe of Judah. He led others to believe that because of this, Israel was the true land of their birthright. He is said to have received a vision in which the angel Gabriel revealed that the time had come for the biblical Israelites among the African-Americans to return to Israel (the promised land) and to establish the kingdom of God on earth. As a result about three hundred and fifty people from Chicago, along with Ben Israel, journeyed to Liberia, West Africa on their way to Israel. In 1969 they made it to Israel and set up what they believe to be the foundation for the kingdom of God.

Unfortunately, despite all the promotion of building the kingdom of God and “righteousness” the B. H. I.s members in Ben Israel’s sect were later engaged in criminal activity. In 1986, Ben Israel and his aide, Prince Asiel Ben Israel were convicted of trafficking stolen passports and securities and forging checks and saving bonds. While in Israel, Ben Israel’s community had a counterpart sect forming in the United States. This sect was being led by Yahweh Ben Yahweh and was called the Nation of Yahweh. Those who followed Yahweh Ben Yahweh viewed him as the Messiah.

Yahweh Ben Yahweh (Hulon Mitchell, Jr.) was born in Oklahoma, 1935. He founded N. O. Y. in 1979. He originally tried to base his teachings on twisting Christian doctrine. In recent years, the N. O. Y. was involved in a large amount of conflict with the people and government of Miami, Florida where it was founded. The N. O. Y. is an offshoot of the sect created by Ben Israel. Members of the N. O. Y. were convicted in 1990 of conspiring to commit RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization statute), and although they were not found guilty of the RICO charge, Yahweh was sentenced to serving an eighteen-year sentence for another crime. In conjunction with the negative view of this sect, Yahweh and his followers are referred to as a “killer cult,” notorious for their violent background.

There are many other branches of B. H. I.s that come from the perverted biblical beliefs and teaching of Ben Israel’s misunderstanding of the Holy Scriptures. In spite of many obvious errors in interpreting the bible, those who practice this religion in any form perceive their history to be exceptionally divine.
– Source: Black Hebrew Israelites FAQ

Practising a strict version of kibbutz-style collectivism and Old Testament ethics — including polygamy and veganism — the Black Hebrews are not recognised as Jews by Israel’s rabbinate.

The Black Hebrews believe they are descended from one of ancient Israel’s 10 lost tribes by way of Africa and the slave routes to America, an account most scholars dismiss as myth.
– Source: Israel grants ”Black Hebrews” permanent residency, Reuters, July 29, 2003

The Black Hebrews believe they are descended from Israelites who were expelled from Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 and then migrated for more than 1,000 years before reaching West Africa and later the United States as slaves.

According to the teachings of their leader, Ben Ammi Ben Israel, the cruel chapters of their history were part of God’s plan to lead them back to their homeland — Israel.

That belief sprang from a vision that Ben Ammi says he had in 1966 when he was a Chicago foundry worker named Ben Carter. In the dream, archangel Gabriel told him that many African Americans were descendants of the lost Israeli tribe of Judah.

Carter’s epiphany led him to gather 30 followers in 1967 and move to Liberia — a country founded by freed American slaves in 1847 — for a two- year “cleansing period” on the way to the Promised Land.

Upon arrival, Israeli authorities directed the newcomers to the remote desert town of Dimona while their claims of Jewish heritage were assessed.
– Source: Black Hebrews fight for citizenship in Israel, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 15, 2002

The group has recently been granted permanent residency status in Israel.

In many ways, Black Hebrew Israelite beliefs are a mirror image of the white supremacist Christian Identity religion, which holds that northern Europeans, not Jews, are God’s true chosen people. Both see Jews as the spawn of Satan and accuse them of secretly controlling society by Machiavellian string-pulling. Tom Metzger, leader of the White Aryan Resistance, has said, “They’re the black counterpart of us.”

Black Hebrews believe the descendants of American slaves and the indigenous peoples of the Americas make up the 12 tribes of Israel. They expect to some day return to Israel (which they call “Northeast Africa”). Adherents reject black Africans, who are usually seen as ”traitors” who sold their black brethren into slavery.

The origins of the Black Hebrew Israelite religion may stretch back to before the Civil War. By 1896, “Prophet” William Crowdy founded a sect in Kansas. The religion permitted polygamy, forbade birth control and decreed strict dietary laws similar to Judaism.

By World War I, there were congregations in several major cities. By the 1980s, others had appeared in Israel and several other countries.

“The racism, paranoia and millenialism that they have is very flammable,” says Suliman Nyang, an expert at Howard University. “They want to take on the entire system, the entire world that they think is evil and against them. The line between reality and imagination doesn’t exist for them.”
– Source: Rough Waters, ‘Stream of Knowledge’ Probed by Officials, Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report, Fall 1997. Note: this article is no longer online (not even at the Internet Archive) The Fall 1997 issue of the Intelligence Report is not included in the site’s archive.

The very words cause many people to grin at what appears to be simply a play on words. No one reads about such people in european authored history books and there are only a few references to “Ethiopian Jews” in white Jewish sources. Yet Black Hebrews have existed since biblical times. In fact, they are the original or proto-typical Hebrews.

Their story begins with the Patriarch Abraham (2117-1942 B.C.), a native of the Sumerian city of Ur in ancient Mesopotamia. Archaeological discoveries have proven that the earliest inhabitants of southern Mesopotamia were members of the ”Brown Race,” i.e., the Negroid branch of humanity.

It has been confirmed that the ancient Sumerians were akin to the modern Black Dravidians of India. The Sumerians also had an affinity with a people known as the Elamites, the very first Semitic group mentioned in the Bible (Gen. 10:22). The Elamites were a black-skinned and woolly-haired people as the colorful glazed artwork on the royal palace walls of the ancient Persian city of Susa clearly show.Thus Abraham, the native of Sumerian and the founding father of the Israelite nation, was a black man. The black racial origins of the Patriarchs is not based on mere conjecture, it is in complete agreement with the picture one gets from examining the identity of the earliest inhabitants of southern Mesopotamia.

This truth is grossly neglected, suppressed, and distorted in most European and American historical texts which are flavored with race prejudice. Fortunately, however, there are enough well authored and highly researched works by Black historians that challenge the Eurocentric revisions of history and correct the various erroneous views regarding the ethnic identity of the Hebrews.

Biblical history relates that the descendants of Abraham, namely Jacob (Israel) and his twelve sons and their wives, 70 in all, migrated from Canaan to Egypt around the year 1827 B.C. During their sojourn in Egypt the Children of Israel multiplied from being a family of 70 souls to a nation of over 3 million people at the time of the Exodus which took place in 1612 B.C.

This astounding number of people in so short a time can only be adequately explained by intermarriage between the family of Jacob and the native Egyptian populace. It is an established fact that the ancient Egyptians were a black African people. Thus, even if the Hebrews were not black before they arrived in Egypt, which is unlikely given Abraham’s background, they were definitely black by the time they left Egypt under Moses […]
– Source: Black Hebrew Israelites

Exposing the Black Hebrew Israelites

Exposing the Black Hebrew Israelites
On this episode of Apologia TV Vocab Malone, from Roosevelt Community Church and Urban Theologian Radio, sat down to talk about the theology of the rising cult known as Hebrew Israelites or Black Hebrew Israelites.
Vocab Malone and Hebrew Israelism: Mega Edition with Calls!
Vocab is the guest on this edition of The Dividing Line, a webcast with James White, director of Alpha & Omega Ministries
YouTube player
Copy of ‘Black Hebrew Israelites Debunked,’ By Keith Thompson

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  • African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem (Pro). See About Us, which includes an explanation of the group’s philosophy and history. Keep in mind that this is just one of many such groups in a diverse movement, but the information will be helpful in starting to learn about these groups.
  • The LawKeepers (pro)

    The LawKeepers. Co, is a TORAH based organization of Hebrew Yisraelites (not jewish) of so-called African Decent (Black) scattered throughout the diaspora, who’s primary purpose is; to exalt, honor and give praise and glory to the Holy ONE of Yisrael YHWH; DO the Laws given to Moses to give to the children of Israel; and return to the land of our forefathers, the land of Yisrael. Also to assist and act as an advocate for likeminded Hebrew Yisraelites who have returned to their heritage, and who desire to return to their homeland, the land of our forefathers the land of Yisrael.

    We do not embrace the Greek writings also known as the New Testament nor its teachings of human sacrifice or a triune godhead, and do not embrace JC/Yeshua as our saviour following the admonition found in Exodus 6:3 “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” and Isaiah 43:11 “I even I, am YHWH and beside me there is no saviour” We are here to herald forth the truth concerning our GOD YHWH and his “peculiar people” who have been scattered in the lands of their captivity as of this day, specifically to the nation of Yisrael in the “Valley of Dry Bones” who have lost their identity as a nation.
    – Source: Intro


This entry is curated by Anton Hein.

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Category: Black Hebrew Israelites
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First published (or major update) on Wednesday, June 29, 2016.
Last updated on March 30, 2021.

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