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identify this religion?
March 16, 2014 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I saw about ten people in NYC on the A train this weekend who claimed to be the "true Jews." One of them told me that their beliefs include: (1) no conversion is accepted and (2) the people I'm used to thinking of as Jews are actually a Turkic tribe that tried to convert in the 8th century A.D. (but see (1) of course). Notably, all of them were extremely large black men (one of them had to duck to get off the train) wearing dark robes, headbands and head cloths, and carrying shoulder-height wooden sticks wrapped in black tape. Their shirts and headbands had hexagonal stars on them, and one of them had a few letters of Hebrew written on his head cloth. They were having this free-wheeling discussion from which I recognized several references to events in the Old Testament. Weirdly enough, the guy sitting next to me told me they were actually some kind of Muslim, although I don't know how much I trust that guy's opinion. Does anyone know what religion these people were from?
posted by d. z. wang to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Black Hebrew Israelites?
posted by Houstonian at 8:49 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]


Definitely Black Hebrew Israelites. They used to preach all the time on Union Square South.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:53 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Where they these guys?
posted by Houstonian at 8:54 AM on March 16


The Turkic tribe they are talking about are the Khazars, a dark ages nation north of the Caucasus that apparently did convert to Judaism in large numbers.
posted by BinGregory at 9:32 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


nthing Black Hebrew Israelites. They used to preach in midtown too (and probably still do, but I avoid midtown as much as possible now).
posted by bedhead at 9:33 AM on March 16


Those guys are kinda great, in that "well, good for you, I guess" kind of way. I saw them in Union Square the other day. Having been called a sodomite by them, I can attest that they are *really* really really not into the gays. :/
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:05 AM on March 16 [8 favorites]


I've seen these fools in various spots around NYC preaching on street corners, yelling at citizens, standing around in their homemade robes since I was a child. They used to have a public access show as well. In person, they're openly confrontational with passersby, particularly those they think might be gay or outwardly Jewish. The Khazar claim is used by other groups attempting to "disprove" European Jewish connection to Israel. That these dudes are still around is sad, somewhat laughable, and utterly New York.
posted by mizrachi at 10:51 AM on March 16


Yup those are the Black Hebrew Israelites, I recall at one time their public access show was called "Real Jews are Black". They are aggressively homophobic and generally shouty, but sometimes they wear plastic He-Man armor. I did once hear one of them make the most flawlessly logical argument ever: "If the white man ain't the devil, how come whenever aliens come down and pick one up, they kick his ass?"
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:59 AM on March 16 [13 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. Folks, maybe restrict it to info about this group and not just sharing annoyance with them, however justified.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:08 AM on March 16


but sometimes they wear plastic He-Man armor.

Sorry what? I've never heard of these people before and it's kind of fascinating, but I don't get why they'd wear armour? The Wikipedia article doesn't cover this and I'd really like to read about that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:11 AM on March 16


The members in NYC wear distinctive bangles and armor, yes. You can see a picture of one of them in this Village Voice article. From the article: "General Hashar, leader of the Ambassadors of Christ, another Black Hebrew Israelite 'camp,' explains that the war-like dress and titles they use are based on a biblical call to arms, including the omnipresent star, or 'shield,' of David on their garments."
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:16 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


Emily Raboteau has a lot about them in her book Searching For Zion: The Quest for Home in the African Diaspora. And interview with the author here.
posted by zaelic at 7:32 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


They're also in DC; I've seen them preaching in Chinatown a number of times. Washington City Paper published a feature about them a few years ago.
posted by Allez at 1:16 PM on March 25


I was in Harlem today and saw a Van that reminded me of this question, so I took this photo.
posted by mlis at 2:51 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


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