When members of the Jewish community are attacked because they are Jewish, one immediately thinks that the attacker will be found to be a white man motivated by neo-Nazi ideology because it is such groups that have seen a recent resurgence in the US. And that usually does turn out to be the case. But two events recently have disturbed that pattern because they were committed by black men with unclear motives
Just two days ago an attacker entered the home of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi in Monsey, New York during a Hanukkah dinner and viciously attacked everyone present with a machete before running away. He was later captured in Harlem, covered in blood. He is suspected to have a history of mental problems
Then a few weeks ago, we had the case of two black men armed with rifles who attacked a kosher bodega in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Jersey City and set up a five hour standoff with armed police that ended with the deaths of three people plus the two attackers.
Authorities believe Anderson and Graham intentionally targeted the store, and say the pair is believed to be responsible for the death of Jersey City Police Detective Joseph Seals, who was killed shortly before they attacked the store. Anderson was a one-time follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, sources told NBC News, and his social media pages pushed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The Black Hebrew Israelite movement has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Black Hebrew Israelites, whom I had not heard of before, are yet another group that thinks of itself as descended from the mythical lost tribe of Israel but are angered by Israel’s reluctance to accept their claims of being Jewish.
Most Black Hebrew Israelites live in Dimona, Israel, with the first ones arriving in that country in 1969. The group began in Chicago in 1967 under the leadership of Ben Ammi Ben Israel, an African American whose birth name was Ben Carter. Ben Israel appointed 30 disciples and in 1967 moved the group to Liberia before embarking for their final destination in Israel.
Some Black Hebrew Israelites, frustrated by their lack of citizenship, denounced Israel and adopted anti-Semitic rhetoric, arguing that white Jews were frauds and that Black Hebrew Israelites were the only true Jewish descendents.
So why this seeming metamorphosis in ant-Semitism, creating a new branch of it? This is something that sociologists will have to examine. But one can understand the deep concern that these new attacks are generating in the Jewish community as they feel targeted from a new and unexpected direction.