Six people were killed last week during what authorities are investigating as an anti-Semitic domestic terror attack in a kosher market in Jersey City, New Jersey. The gunmen, David Anderson and Francine Graham, were killed during a gunfight with police and are believed to have had interest in the Black Hebrew Israelites movement.
Reverends Irene Monroe and Emmett G. Price III joined Boston Public Radio on Monday to discuss what exactly the Black Hebrew Israelites movement is as a whole and the specific strands of it adopted by extremists.
"This group that went in and killed at the [kosher market] is a very radical strand, because the Black Hebrew Israelites are very much about peace," Monroe said. "When we’re talking about this particular strand of the Black Hebrew Israelites, it's a lunatic fringe, very militant."
Anderson and Graham's actions and activities don’t represent the totality of the Black Hebrew Israelites, Price added.
The Black Hebrew Israelites movement believes that they were part of the 12 tribes of Israel and thus believe they are the original Israelites, Price explained. "Back in the end of the 19th century, two African American men came up with two different churches that suggested that United States blacks were the decedents of the Hebrews," he said.
Black Jewish people's place in history and modernity gets overlooked, Monroe said.
"[The Black Hebrew Israelites movement's] whole argument is that Moses is a black man, and that if we look at Jesus in a historical context, it is impossible for him to be a white, blue-eyed guy — he's obviously a person of color," she said. "So what they will argue is that the the first Israelites were really people of color, and the argument will be, why, today when we think of Judaism, why we only think of whites that come from European countries?"
Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist and the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail and a visiting researcher in the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program at Boston University School of Theology.
Price is professor of worship, church & culture and founding executive director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Together they host the All Rev’d Up podcast, produced by WGBH.