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March 27, 1964 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1964-03-27

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Friday, March 27, 1 964 THE DETROIT JEWISH NE WS 14

'Black Jews of Harlem' Explained, Their
Customs Revealed in Brotz's Social Study

Functioning under the name vation by Negroes of America
Commandment Keepers of the . . . specifically the freedom to
Living God, in a synagogue now move from an admiration of the
located at 1 W. 123rd St., Har- Old Testament patriarchs to the
lem, with Rabbi Wentworth A. view that they were one's very
Matthew as its spiritual leader, own ancestors . . ."
this center of the largest group
Thus, there emerged a belief
of Negroes who claim to be di - among Negroes that they were
rect descendants of the Ethio - a chosen people. Brotz states
pian Hebrew is drawing wide at - that "stimulus was provided by
tention. There are other con - Booker T. Washington's opin-
gregations of a similar nature , ions, current around the turn
although they are smaller in of the century, that Negroes
number, and their activities would be well advised to model
claim serious attention.
themselves upon Jews in a num-
In "The Black Jews of Har- ber of respects but particularly
lem," published by the Free with regard to the inward pride
Press of Glencoe (60 5th, N.Y. possessed by the Jewish people
11,), the author, Howard Brotz,
offers an interesting sociological
study of the Ethiopian Hebrews
who object to being called Ne-
groes.
Brotz's very interesting book
is, in reality, a study of Negro-
white conditions, with empha-
sis on the colored Jewish com-
munity. Thus, in the course of
his study, the author states.
"From the white man's point of
view there is no psychological
equality between the white and
Negro. And just as this imbal-
ance can distort, kill, or mutil-
ate love between two individ-
uals, so can it do the same be-
tween the races taken together
as wholes. Is it any surprise that
the Black Jews and the Black
Muslims have responded to all
this with anti-white invective?"
RABBI W. A. MATTHEW
* * *

leaders undoubtedly worked oc-
casionally as shabbos goyim
(non-Jews who are employed by
orthodox jews to perform cer-
tain minor services for them on
the Sabbath, such as turning off
lights) or janitors in syna-
gogues."

*

*

Listing some of the leaders
among the "Black Jews," Brotz
makes an interesting reference
to Detroit and the Black Mus-
lims. He refers to Arnold Ford
as one of the early leaders in
the movement and he states:
"Legend or hearsay has it that
Ford, tiring of Judaism, emi-
grated in the early thirties to
Africa where he became a Mus-
lim and where he subsequently
died. As this was in the midst
of the depression and passage
money would be rather scarce,
it. is equally possible and even
more plausible that he emigrat-
ed not to Africa but to Detroit.
and that the W. Fard, Ford, or
Farrad who founded the Islamic
cult in that city and Arnold
Ford were one and the same.
This, of course, can only be
speculative."

primitive form of Judaism,"
that "they have no knowledge
either of Hebrew (they use
Ge'ex, as do their Christian
compatriots, as the language of
their prayers), or of the oral
Law. Their prescriptions are
drawn entirely from the Penta-
teuch. They practice circum-
cision, observe the Sabbath with
strictness, and observe the com-
mandments regarding ritual
cleanness; but then too so do
many other Ethiopians whose
Christianity, which is highly
syncretistic, retains many Ju-
daic elements.'
* * *
The major sect described by
Brotz is the one headed by Rab-
bi Matthew whom the author
befriended, who gets praise
from Brotz, whose various syna-
gogue locations, for services,
classes and assembly rooms,
since their formation in 1930,
have now been established at 1
W. 123rd St. in New York.

The interest shown this cult
by the Jews of New York, the
visitations to services by Jew-
ish groups, invitations to them
to recite the prayers, the man-
ner in which the Torah is read,
are among the revelations re-
garding the group's uniqueness.
These Black Jews believe

that the term Negro was in-
vented by the slavemasters and
imposed by the slaves "together
with the white man's religion inn
order to demoralize them."
A lengthy chapter in Brotz's
book describes the customs and
methods of religious obser-
vances of the Commandment
Keepers, under Rabbi Mat-
thew's leadership. They have
adopted into their vocabulary
Hebrew and Yiddish words. At
their services, "there is no
swooning, shrieking, screaming,
running up and down the room
in a state of `possession'—all of
which Matthew regards as 'nig-
geritions.' "
They have a unique way of
observing the Passover Seder.
Some of the followers joined
the Garvey Back - to - Africa
Movement. They are trying "to
remoralize the lower-class Ne-
gro" and "their explicit opposi-
tion to esctatic religion—`nig-
geritions'—as well as juvenile
delinquency and the impo-
verishment of paternal auth-
ority shows very well what they
are trying to disassociate them-
selves from." They have not been
accepted into the organized rab-
binic movement in New York
and they have resented it.
Brotz, having made a deep
study of the Negro problem, of
the place in society of both the
Black Muslims and the Black
Jews, has made a valuable con-
tribution towards an under-
standing of the new movements
in "The Black Jews of Harlem."
P.S.

Brotz explains the interpreta-
tions by the Black Jews of Jew- Proposes 'Updating'
ish laws and customs, the per- of Religious Heritage to
mission given to some to eat
pork, the acknowledgment of Fit Science Findings
Jesus as a "Black Jew who was
PHILADELPHIA, (JTA) —
lynched by the Gentiles." He George Cabot Lodge, Harvard
also states: "Some of the leaders University faculty member and
Brotz winds up his analysis throughout history." He makes and their followers simply were former U.S. Cabinet official, has
of the white-Negro issue by special reference to Washing- using their new identity as a proposed an "updating" of the
FINEST PAINT IN _100 YEARS
viewing the lesson to be learned : ton's attitude about "the Negro's basis of getting handouts from Judeo-Christian heritage to fit
Jews.'
from the strange sects as fol- need for self-perfection."
the disclosures of science and
*
lows: "The role of white society
Assistance was asked by the thus advance the cause of west-
MIRACLE
in sustaining the kind of social
Brotz points to the first .ap- leading group among them, the ern civilization.
and political fabric that would pearance on the scene of those
PLASTIC
Lodge,
son
of
Ambassador
support the Negro's quest for styling themselves "Black Jews" one headed by Rabbi Wentworth
Laytex
Wall Paint
Henry Cabot Lodge, made the
MtnnriC
self - respect is indispensable. in 1915, with congregations A. Matthew, in the teaching of
READY.E.:
proposal
in
an
address
at
Con-
Hebrew
to
the
children
and
the
The essence of this fabric is in several cities, including the
MIXED ..-=
gregation Rodeph Shalom com-
COLOR5!
what I would call an open alli- ! Washington sect called Church Jewish Education Committee
&' WHITE
memorating
the
70th
anniver-
ance between those whites and of God and Saints of Christ supplied them with textbooks.
• True Plastic • Scrubbable
those Negroes who stand for ex- "under the leadership of Bishop They insisted on doing their sary of the Jewish Chautauqua
• Won't Blister or Peel
• Brash It or Boll R
cellence or the spirit of crafts- H. Z. Plummer who claimed to own teaching. An attempt also Society. S. M. Liebowitz of New
• Clean Up with Water
York,
chancellor
of
the
Society,
• Dries In 30 Minutes
had
been
made
to
link
the
Black
manship. I do not believe this •be the impersonation of Grand-
• Absolutely Odorless
would bring into existence in ; Father Abraham, by which name Jews to the Falashas of Ethio- described its founding in Phila-
MAC-(1-LAC PORCELAIN FINISH
the practical future a society he was called within the cult." pia. Many of them were from delphia 70 years ago by Rabbi
Matching Colors to Laytex
the
West
Indies.
In
relation
to
Henry
Berkowitz
as
a
project
New alkyd formula: Now Only
that would be as blind to the But there was little "-Jewish"
Dries to hard $6
the
Falashas
Bretz
indicates
of
American
Reform
Judaism.
It
mere fact of color as would its about it other than the cult's
portelain semi-bib&
$A95
Corers in one coat!
Constitution and public law. But commemoration of Passover and that the sect living in Ethiopia seeks to eliminate religious Absolutely
Gal
serobbable!
it would bring about a situation the holding of Sabbath services practices "a peculiar if not hatred through education.
in which color was subordinated on Saturday. Brotz then points
to qualifications. The active rec- to the folloWing interesting-de-
ognition of the obligation im- velopments and viewpoints:
posed upon whites to enable and I
"The group in Philadelphia,
to encourage Negroes to pursue I called the Church of God, under
these with dignity would be the the leadership of Prophet Cher-
repayment of the unpaid debt ry. Exhibits in a clear-cut form
the United States owes the the doctrine that the so-called
Negro, who, indeed, as the
Negro is misnamed and that the
Black Jews correctly say, rob-
true Jews are black. In Fauset's
bed of his self-respect. But in
a fundamental sense he can only account of the sect, he describes
how Cherry will prove to his
recover this by himself."
congregation that black folk are
These are conclusions based not Negroes. coons, niggers, or
on a thorough study of Black shines. and he calls out to all
Jews of Harlem. Brotz traces "niggers" to get the hell out of
the preaching by Negro minis- the place! The ritual and prac-
ters of a cultism based on the tices in this church, which the
belief that Negroes were the members believe on the basis
lost sheep of the House of Is- I of the Scripture wrong to call
rael. He presents an interesting a synagogue, consist of certain
chronology of such preachments. idiosyncratic inventions that the
COMMITTEE IN INFORMATION:
He shows how in a world"cen- prophet has prescribed on the
General Chairman
Morris !Corbel
tered upon a veneration for the authority of Scripture. Among
Hillel L. Abrams, Judge Victor J. Baum, Hyman
Bible as the literal word of God these are the fact that he may
M. Beale, Cantor Simon Bermanis, David I.
Co-Chairman
Max Stollmon
lay both the contents of and the carry a staff and opens the
Berris, David S. Bodzin, Al Borman, Harry E.
Mrs. Robert Sosnick
freedom for the kind of inno- services 13
y win g six successive
Citrin, Avern Cohn, Harry A. Davidoff, Bernard
Women's Division Chairman
beats on a huge drum. Although
Edelman, Charles T. Gellman, Rabbi Aron
the members study Hebrew and
Grossbard, Sam Herskovic, Irwin J. Kasoff, Abe
HONORARY CHAIRMEN:
Cherry keeps a Yiddish and
Korchak, Jerome W. Kelman, Judge George
Hebrew Bible on his pulpit, one
Hon. Jerome P. Cavanagh, Mayor,
D. Kent, Fred Lax, Dr. Charles Levi, Pro.
of my informants — who had
City of Detroit; Hon. Ed Carey, Presi-
Samuel M. Levin, Harry S. Levine, Erry S.
o moved from Philadelphia to
Nobody
dent, Detroit Common Council; Tom
Loewenthal, Sam S. Novetsky, Max Osnos, Dr.
New York in order to join the
Borman, Max Kaplan;
UNDERSELLS
Irving Posner, Irwin Shulman, Phillip Stollman,
main sect there—said that
GREAT LAKES
Judge Burton R. Shiffman, Alex Saltsman,
Cherry never had any Temple
Rabbi Ernest E. Greenfield, president,
Worship, that is, a service in
David Silver, Robert Sosnick, David S. Tanz-
Young Israel of Northwest Detroit;
DON'T EVER
Hebrew. It was only in New
man, Zvi Tomkiewicz, Morris H. Berris, Harry
Samuel W. Platt, president, Young
York that the Negro leaders
FORGET IT ! !
L. Blitz, Nathan Butrimovitz, Jack Carmen,
Israel of Oak-Woods; Hillel L.
came in close contact with Jews
David Cern, Herman K. Cohen, Milton Duchan,
ASK FOR
Abrams, president, Young Israel of
whose Judaism was based of
Meyer Eisenberg, David Feldstein, Albert Fried-
Detroit;
Abe
Selesney,
president,
course not only upon the letter
"Morrie
man, Dr. Jacob Goldman, Louis Harris, Irving
Young Israel of Greenfield;
of the Bible but also upon the
Hershman, Abe Kasle, Isaac Knoppow, Alex
Sherman"
oral law and the commentary of
Rabbi James P. Gordon, Young Is-.
Kuhn, Abbi A. Levi, Dr. Hugo Mandelbaum,
Sales Manager
the Talmudic tradition. It was
reel
of Oak-Woods; Rabbi Samuel H.
Irving Moskovitz, Morris Novetsky, Max Raimi,
indeed, through such contact
Prero, Young Israel of Northwest
Morris Subar, Norman B. Sukenic, Sam Suke-
that these leaders acquired a
model for their religion. Harlem
Detroit;
nic, Sol Wainer, Mike Weiner, Harry Weiss,
obbi Joshua S. Sperka,
at that time was still in large-
Theodore Weiss.
Young 'Israel of Greenfield.
16540 GREENFIELD
part a neighborhood of Jewish
BR 3-2900
immigrants for whom these

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