13 Black Jews facing deportation from Israel over Hebrew Israelite ties

13 African-American Jews may be facing deportation from Israel

Israel’s High Court to rule on appeal against deportation order after Interior Ministry rejected their Reform conversion.

By Judy Maltz | Apr. 9, 2014 | 3:40 PM


The High Court of Justice will hear an appeal Thursday against a decision by the state to deport 13 African-American Jews from Israel on the grounds that their conversion was bogus.

The appeal was submitted a year ago by the Israel Religious Action Center, an organization affiliated with the Reform movement and that advocates on behalf of religious pluralism in the country.

The 13 African Americans, originally from Kansas City, Missouri, are all members of one extended family. A court order prevents publishing their names because some are minors.

According to sources familiar with the case, the adult members of the family underwent a Reform conversion in the United States five years ago. Israeli law requires the government to recognize as Jewish, for the purpose of immigration, anyone converted abroad by a rabbi in a recognized congregation, regardless of its affiliation.

Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israeli authorities suspect that African-American Reform converts make aliyah to join the Black Hebrews community in Dimona.Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The family has been living in the southern coastal town of Ashkelon, which has had a small, but established community of African-American converts since September 2011. They are members of the Netzach Israel congregation there, which is affiliated with the Conservative-Masorti movement.

In December 2011, when their tourist visas expired, the family members applied for Israeli citizenship with the Interior Ministry and were turned down.

Asked to comment on the case, the Interior Ministry said the family’s request was rejected because of “serious doubts” raised, based on material presented to representatives of the Population Registry “about their conversion process and its purpose.”

Sources familiar with the case said the ministry officials also raised questions and concerns about the family’s possible ties to the Black Hebrew Israelites, a community of African Americans in Dimona, most of them originally from Chicago, who maintain they are descendants of the Tribe of Judah but are not recognized as Jews by the state.

Rabbi Andrew Sacks, the director of the Conservative-Masorti movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, said he was convinced such concerns were raised only because the family in question was African-American. “It is as though blacks must prove to be good Jews − something not required of others − and prove they have no connection to the Black Hebrews even though there really is no credible evidence that this is the case here,” he said.

Israeli passport (illustration)

Israeli passport (illustration) Photo by Haim Taragan

In response, the Interior Ministry said: “All conversions undergo the same exact examination process.”

Sources familiar with this case and others involving converts to Judaism said this was the first time the Interior Ministry has challenged the validity of a conversion performed abroad by a rabbi in a recognized Jewish community. The outcome would therefore have significant and more widespread ramifications, they noted.

The African-American family − a mother, her two sons, their spouses and children − initially tried to immigrate to Israel through Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that handles immigration of Jews from North America and the United Kingdom for the Israeli government. They were told, however, that it would best if they dealt with the Interior Ministry directly. Based on this recommendation, they decided to come to Israel on tourist visas and apply for citizenship once they had arrived.

In recent years, African-American converts have come under intense scrutiny by Interior Ministry officials. According to sources who have been present at meetings held between the two sides, these converts are frequently questioned by ministry officials about their possible connections to the Black Hebrew community. The ministry appears to be concerned that they may be using their conversion as a way to get status in Israel in order to join the Black Hebrews in Dimona.



4 thoughts on “13 Black Jews facing deportation from Israel over Hebrew Israelite ties

  • April 9, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    So what if they are connected to The Hebrew community out of Chicago. I would bet that a so called white man or woman anywhere in the world would be accepted on the basis of damn near their word that they were or had converted to Judaism! I didn’t know that Kansas City was represented in Isreal. More power to the family. I wouldn’t want to be there, I prefer Africa and I know that Isreal is a part of it but not the part I’d want to move to. Nevertheless, the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof and if we are the children of His Most Highness we should be able to live anywhere on His planet we choose.

  • April 9, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    100% Proof African Americans are the ORIGINAL Hebrews of the scriptures, just google the video “Proof African Americans are Biblical Israelites” and there you go!!! They need justice!

  • May 6, 2014 at 4:03 am

    I am astonished….

    First of all: Reform Judaism is NEVER considered as Judaism within the real and orthodox community, as reform Judaism misses the basic points of Judaism.
    Reform for example:
    -They do not require a person to believe in the unity of the G’d of Israel. Even fake Christian converts that believe that G’d and their messiah (Yoshke) are one and the same, these people are being accepted as “converts” to reform Judaism. And as a comparison: Muslims would have them killed as converts to Islam for such blasphemy, Orthodox Judaism just would throw them out for such BS.
    -Reform they do NOT believe that G’d gave the written (1) and Oral (2) tradition at mount Sinai but rather Reform believes that it was written and invented later by inspired people.
    -Reform Judaism doesn’t believe the bible is eternal and they believe that it may be adapted in time to fit to new era’s. And that is exactly what is happening in Reform, Reconstructionist and other non-orthodox streams.

    Even practicing Christians do not believe such BS as the reform Jews. And reform was placed outside Judaism in approx 1870 by mainstream Judaism in Europe.
    Even their founder, Avraham Geiger, was refused by the Lutheran church, when he wanted to make “his” Judaism part of the German Lutheran Church.

    Here is your answer why these fake African converts can not be accepted and have to return as they hold a reform-conversion paper that they bought for good money.
    If they would have done a real conversion to Judaism by an ORTHODOX Rabbinate that would have required them to study for almost 6 years before they could being admitted as a convert ( ==> Judaism is not interested in converting as many people as possible, unlike Islam and Christianity <==) , they would be gladly accepted in our land as full fetched Jews.

    For now, they just are as similar as a Mexican immigrant to the US that bought a fake US-passport on the black-market: It still doesn't make him a US citizen according to the US constitution, regardless how hard people and his friends shout that it is unjust and unfair.
    Same here: The Jewish Law, outlined on Mount Sinai, describes to what criteria a Ger Tzedek needs to follow in order to be accepted within Judaism.
    And no: nothing to do with race. Some Ethiopian Jews underwent a conversion as not everyone could prove they were from Jewish decent, but they were still accepted and still marry born Jews (white/asian/brown/black) every day. And the same for the Bnei Menashe from India and other people that return as the lost tribes.

    Rabbi Pinchas Miller

  • August 17, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    If some commentators had enough insight to merely look in the mirror, looking at the derogatory statements ya’ll made concerning the white Israeli’s, it totally understandable that these folk don’t want to increase the population of black Israelites. Why increase the population of a people who work for your demise?

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