Black Ethiopian Jews

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  • This topic has 68 replies, 17 voices, and was last updated 2 years ago by ujm.
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    You are very quick to judge people that went through persecutions you never went through. If the Christians in Ashkenaz burnt all of the Sifrei Torah and chumashim and said that no one is allowed to use any holy books accept those approved by the Church, would the Ashkenazi Jews have just stopped studying Torah or would they have used the Christian approved ones?

    I also note that you haven’t responded to many of my other points. Do you concede that the Beta Israel do have a strong claim of being Jewish and they are at least a safek (such that we have a chiyuv to save them, love them, etc.)


    I don’t know why I wrote shevat instead of Sivan in my post yesterday. I apologize for the confusion. They celebrated Shavuos on the 12 of Sivan. I looked up a couple more of their practices. They do not lain haftorah. They are tovel for keri. But it is not clear if this is because of takanos Ezra or because the Torah requires it for eating taharos.

    Another interesting thing I found was that their married women covered their hair. Which is not something Karaites do or did.


    To ujm: If you have 10 men ready to start davening, and two are dark-skinned, and you think they do not count for a minyan because they are Ethiopian, what is the polite way to say to the dark-skinned men that they are not Jewish and therefore do not count for a minyan?

    And if the other 8 men, white and known to your satisfaction to be Jewish, want to count the dark-skinned men for the minyan, what do you say to the 8 white Jews?

    And will ujm, and everyone else, remember that Hashem knows who is Jewish, and if you miss a day of davening, that alone will not send you to gehinom. But repeatedly insulting or being unkind to anyone will increase your chances of going to gehinom.


    Benignuman: I’ll try to go through your older comments to address additional points, but if the Church only permitted Jews to use the New Testament would you argue that we should use it since we have nothing else? I’m pointing out that the Christian Old Testament is no less heretical than their New Testament.

    What history is clearly documented (not presently orally testified) about this group’s religious history and practices and identification in the one hundred years prior to the formation of the State of Israel in 1948? And where have you seen such 1848-1948 sources?



    That’s just wrong. The Old Testament is a translation of Tanach. It isn’t heretical the way the New Testament is. The Alexandrian Jewish community used the Greek translation for generations.

    Why is your standard “clearly documented” over oral testimony? In halacha we accept oral testimony over documents. The Torah sh’bal peh was oral for over a thousand years.

    There is plenty of documentation, however, of the group’s history and identification from Christian and Muslim groups that interacted with them (including descriptions of their persecution, forced convervions, burning of seforim, etc.). Additionally, there is the writings of Eldad HaDani, Benjamin of Tudela, the Radbaz, and some secular Jews that visited them in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are also letters that the Beta Israel community sent to Jewish communities in Europe and Jerusalem in the mid-19th century describing their communities and their plight.

    I’ve seen the Radbaz and one of the 19th century letters. For the rest, I am relying on other people’s articles citing these sources.


    Benignuman: If a heretofore unknown group living in a remote African jungle came out and related to us their oral tradition, which they say they’ve passed down generation by generation for the last 2000 years, that they’re Jews who moved to Africa at the time of the Churban, would you accept their word and accept them as Jews/safek Jews?

    What evidence and documentation exists *after* the Radbaz and Eldad HaDani until 100 years ago that connects the current group calling itself Beta Israel to the people the Radbaz or Eldad HaDani speak of?


    > some secular Jews that visited them in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

    I recall reading that when someone who visited them did not keep shabbat, they questioned his Jewishness.



    You are just ignoring the evidence you don’t like. They are not “heretofore uknown” (unlike the Lamba), they were known to the broader Jewish community from the Radbaz, Benjamin of Tudela, and Eldad HaDani. (And it was known that there was an a Jewish community in Kush from Tanach). Additionally, there are numerous references to them in Muslim and, especially Christian sources. They had wars, over hundreds of years, with their Christian neighbors. This is isn’t just some oral tradition that doesn’t match up with other evidence. It is an oral tradition that fits in with the rest of the documentation we have.

    We have a letter that was sent by a leader of the Beta Israel in 1850 (or so), in Hebrew, to Jerusalem asking for help to emigrate to E”Y. That’s 170 years ago.



    a) What evidential proof exists that the people spoken of by the Radbaz, Benjamin of Tudela, and Eldad HaDani are the same people today calling themselves Beta Israel?

    b) What references do the Islamic and Christian sources you speak of say of of the Beta Israel, what dates are these Islamic and Christian documents and by what name do they reference the Beta Israel?

    c) Where can the 1850 correspondence you reference be located and read, and what is the evidence of was written by the same group today calling themselves Beta Israel?


    At this point, it’s not worth it to argue anything with ujm. Like I said earlier in this thread, he is nothing more than an extremely bigoted, racist, disrespectful person. His opinions should be completely ignored, just like those of the various Neturei Karta trolls who show up every so often to yell “Gevalt” about the existence of the State of Israel.


    > are the same people today calling themselves Beta Israel?

    seems like grasping for straw instrad of admitting someone has a better argument. Are you saying several Jewish communities existed in Ethiopia and one disappeared? Get yourself an Occam razor.


    AAQ: I said earlier that throughout history, from ancient times until today, there have always been groups that falsely claimed to be Jewish. There have been real Jewish communities in various parts of the world where they no longer exist. Some places had ancient communities that left long ago and some had communities that lasted much longer but nevertheless left the region in more recent centuries. This is all well documented and uncontroversial.

    That there was, at some point in history a Jewish community living in Ethiopia, hundreds of years ago seems very plausible if even likely, yet something of a question that still was raised with a question mark that resulted in various opinions by the rabbinic establishment over more recent centuries.

    Yet, even if we accept the premise that there was a Jewish community there half a millennium ago (which is the approximate timeframe of the Radbaz, Benjamin of Tudela, and Eldad HaDani — and even back then it wasn’t a widely or universally accepted opinion), a group that about 500 years later claims to be Jewish but doesn’t have a known or demonstrated lineage to the group that a few opinions referenced hundreds of years prior, doesn’t make them Jewish.

    Here’s just a partial list of other groups that also claim to be Jewish, mostly claiming to be from the Ten Lost Tribes:

    Igbo Jews (Nigeria) — they’ve been claiming Jewish since the 1500s
    “Jews of Rusape”
    House of Israel (Ghana)
    Black Hebrew Israelites (United States)
    Bene Ephraim (India)
    Bene Israel (Mumbai, India)
    Bnei Menashe (China and India)
    Banu Israil (India)
    Benei Sión (Chile)
    Lemba (Africa)
    Yibir (Somalia)
    Xueta (Spain)
    Rastafari (Jamaica)
    Knanaya (India)

    As you can see, there’s a preponderance of these kooks in Africa, especially.

    And there are other groups that some claim to be of Jewish descent, including:


    Even the Mormons claim to be the Israelites, although that is an entire different category.



    1) They are in the same location in Ethiopia, they match the description of those sources, and we can track their basic history from that time. There are also no other candidates. There’s no other group in that part of Africa even claiming to be Jewish. If you say the Beta Israel are some new group, then you need to explain what happened to the Jews of Ethiopia and where their replacements came from.

    2) The Islamic sources that I have seen cited are from the 16th and 17th centuries. The Ethiopian Jews are called Falashas (which the Beta Israel are still called by the Ethiopian gentiles) in these sources. There are Christian sources going back to the 4th Century. Around the 12 century or so, after the rise of the Ethiopinum empire, the Christian sources also begin to refer to the Beta Israel as Falasha.

    3) I found it online here at It was published in an Israeli academic journal called Te’uda. The letter is from 1862. But references earlier communications. As for how I know it is the same people, there’s no other candidates. How do you know that current Chasidim are descendants of the Talmidei Baal Shem Tov and their followers? Maybe all the chasidim got wiped out in 1870 and new people arose (out of nowhere) and started pretending that they were always chasidim.


    > Maybe all the chasidim got wiped out in 1870 and new people arose (out of nowhere) and started pretending that they were always chasidim.

    sidetracking: you have a point here. Gemorah talks about real chasidim. then there were Ashkenazi medieval chasidim. modern chasidim took over a name.


    I owe benignuman some responses to points he raised. If I missed any, please point it out.

    Ashkenazi Jews are lighter-skinned than Jews from Sepharad, who are lighter-skinned than Jews from Morroco, who are lighter-skinned than Jews from Yemen.

    Jews started out with one race/skin color. Black children aren’t born to white parents and white children aren’t born to black parents. Whatever race/color Jews started out with, how did a small minority have a completely different one? If a group of whites moved to Africa, after hundreds of years they don’t turn black. Look at the “Afrikaners” in South Africa, who moved there hundreds of years ago from the Netherlands, for example. They are still very white.

    Unless you’re arguing that the Ethiopians under discussion historically descend primarily from a group of converts. But no one has advanced that claim.

    Furthermore, it is known that in the last 150 years this group, while claiming to be Jewish, intermarried with the local surrounding clearly gentile population, weren’t understanding halacha – such as gittin/mamzeirus, etc., with the obvious implications.

    When did the moniker/identification under the term “Beta Israel” enter the historical record? (That name, specifically.)

    The Old Testament is a translation of Tanach.

    I beg to differ. The so-called Old Testament is a corruption full of errors, both intentional and unintentional. If you ever come into possession of a copy, you’d not only be permitted to discard it but you’d be obligated to do so.

    At what point is it known and conclusively documented, if ever, that the Beta Israel had the original Torah in Loshon Kodesh; and at what year in history did they switch over to the Ethiopian Church’s “Old Testament” written in the local language.

    Do you concede that the Beta Israel do have a strong claim of being Jewish and they are at least a safek (such that we have a chiyuv to save them, love them, etc.)

    I’d say the “Crypto-Jews” from the Iberian Peninsula and their former overseas colonies (such as in Latin America) that claim to descent from the Marranos. have a better case. And that is quite a weak case and one that has been virtually universally rejected.

    I don’t see your comparison to the historical record of Chasidim as valid. We have a continuous and unbroken documented record of the Chasidim. We have few and far between, and even then vague, records of references of the Ethiopian Jews over the last 2,000 years.

    How do you respond to the myriad of groups all over the world, both historically from ancient times up to and including many in modern times, a small portion of whom I listed above, that claim to be Jews, as well?

    mesivta bachur

    The “Afrikaners” moved there only a couple hundred years ago, the Ethiopian Jews (or non Jews, not saying one way or another but just pointing something out) claim to have been in central Africa close to the equator for thousands of years. It would make sense that the Ashkenazim started off relatively darker but after a long time in dark Northern Europe took on paler complexions.


    Science doesn’t support the notion that if whites move to Africa or if blacks move to Europe, that after a thousand or two years that their race/color would flip from white to black or vice versa, assuming that they hadn’t intermarried and had remained endogamous.


    “that their Tanach is the same as the Old Testament ”

    Our Tanakh is the same as the Old Testament used by Protestant Christians. The only difference is that the books are in a different order, and that very few Protestant Christians can read Hebrew so they only use translations. But their scholars for centuries have used the Hebrew Tanakh as the basis for their translations. (The first such English translation was published in 1560.)


    CharlieHall: If you had no other Seforim and happened upon the King James version of the “Old Testament” (only), you’d give it a kiss, open up to the current “parsha and start chazering a little, and be yotze Limud Torah?


    CharlieHall: If you had no other Seforim and happened upon the King James version of the “Old Testament” (only), you’d give it a kiss, open up to the current “parsha and start chazering a little, and be yotze Limud Torah?

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