Who Are the Black Hebrew Israelites?

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(American Jewish Committee / VINnews) — Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving apologized Sunday before returning to the Barclays Center after an eight-game suspension for promoting a film about Black Hebrew Israelite ideology filled with antisemitic tropes. Irving, who had declined to denounce antisemitism before his suspension, said he meant no harm and, in hindsight, should have handled the backlash differently.

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“I just want to offer my deep apologies to all those who were impacted over these last few weeks,” he told journalists after a practice. “All races and cultures, I feel like we all feel the impact and I don’t stand for anything close to hate speech or antisemitism or anything that is anti-going against the human race.”

Despite attempts by the Nets and Irving to move forward from the ordeal, outside of the Barclays Center a group of Black Hebrew Israelites came out to support Irving wearing shirts emblazoned with “Israel United in Christ” and chanting “We are the real Jews.” Just who are the Black Hebrew Israelites? What do they believe? And why are some of those beliefs problematic?

Not a Religion, but a Philosophy

According to Jacob Dorman, author of Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions, the term “Black Hebrew Israelite” does not describe a religion, but a philosophy of history that says ancient Israelites were Black and contemporary Black people are their descendants. “You can be a Black Hebrew Israelite and be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Rastafarian,” Dorman said.

Not All Black Jews Are Black Hebrew Israelites

Yes, some Black Hebrew Israelites can be Jewish. But most Black Jews don’t…

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