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Ethiopian "Jews"

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#1 Yosef



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Posted 24 November 2011 - 08:38 AM

I've read various Gedolim, most prolifically Rav Avigdar Miller zt'l, emphatically stating that the Ethiopians claiming Jewish heritage are plain gentiles. Yet, today, it seems they are being accepted by not only the state rabbunut of Israel but even by some Chareidi rabbonim as authentically Jewish. Has anything changed? Are they Jewish or not?

#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 08:53 AM

They are at best Safek (questionable) Jews. They need to go through a conversion process to be accepted as Jews, otherwise we may treat them as Jews only l'chumrah. For example, we would not perform a marriage between them and a gentile but if a divorced woman wants to remarry we would not let her unless she received a Get from the first marriage. We would not count them for a Minyan or give them an Aliyah.

By the way, I generally do not use the adjective "chareidi" because it is misleading. It originated in EY as a way to describe those who followed the Eidah HaChareidis as opposed to the Rabanut. But it has evolved,and has come to mean basically anyone who is not Modern Orthodox. But that is simply the generic, default, traditional manner of being frum. And by using a brand name for the generic you are giving the impression that it is not the generic.

Chareidim do not follow any specific teachings of any specific Rebbi, nor do they believe in any specific values not already in the Torah. Chasidim follow the specific teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples; Telzers follow the teachings and Minhagim of the Telzer Yeshiva; the Mussar movement was started by Rav Yisroel Salanter - but "Chareidi"? There was no beginning to "Chareidism" except on Har SInai; no particular person whose teachings they follow except Moshe Rabbeinu, and no particular Minhagim they perform.

So there really is no such thing as a "Chareidi." Those who people refer to as "Chareidim" have mostly never referred to themselves as such - in America you can go to Yeshiva from Kindergarten through Kollel and you will most probably never hear "we are Chareidi," and you may even never hear the term used at all.

And because words matter - it's a strange thing but people often tend to form impressions of reality based on words and phrases rather than creating words and phrases that reflect reality - I do not use the term "Chareidi" because by giving generic, default Judaism a label it conceals the fact that this Judaism is in fact the generic and default.

#3 Yosef



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Posted 27 November 2011 - 04:53 PM

I would like to quote from the new Sefer "Q&A: Thursday Nights with HaRav Avigdor Miller" a transcription of a question to and answer from Rav Miller (as recorded on Tape # 844):

Q: The Rav mentioned that the Ethiopian immigrants are not Jews, and one of the worst mistakes was to bring them in. So we did a little research and found out that the former Sfardi Rav, Rav Yosef said they are Jews. So we went a little further, and went to Rabbi Yitzchok Alster, who brought down in the name of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zichrono livracha, that Reb Moshe said that if there's any kind of safek at all, that somebody may be a Jew, they must be saved. So we wonder how you will respond to this?

A: Let me explain something to you. There are certain things yhat you have to know are lomdos, and it depends on למדנים. And certain things you know are metzius, and it depends on people who know the metzius - facts. Ethiopians have no connection with our nation at all; not the slightest hava amina. And therefore there is no safek at all and they never were megayer. They never had any Torah among them. They never had any white Jews among them. After all, the Jews are a white people, you have to know. The Ethiopians are a black people. And, therefore, they're mnothing but a group of gentiles who adopted some our ways. They have no connection to us at all; not the slightest. And this is not a matter of this talmid chochom saying this or that, because they don't know. But when you know the history of the Ethiopians, then you know the Ethiopians have no valid tradition at all. And this is by historians. It is only lately that the New York Times came out for the "Ethiopian Jews". The New York Times gave them semicha as Jews. But up until recently, all the historians knew they were not Jews. They were just blacks who adopted some Jewish customs. And, therefore, there isn't the slightest doubt about the question. Now how great is the error? Maybe they did bigger errors in the State of Israel. It's quite possible. But they're bringing in blacks who refuse to be megayer. Now, if they're such sincere people, let them at least go through the geirus. If they lived so long without the Torah, let them be megayer. No, they refuse to be megayer. Now if they stay the way they are and increase and multiply - they're going into the government and school - the government schools will now have black atheists, black criminals, and you'll have black ghettos and the black problem of Israel. Do they need this on top of all the tzoros they have? So it shouldn't be any question in your mind. As far as I'm concerned, there's not the slightest hava amina that the blacks are Jews.

So we see that Rav Miller was rather emphatic that there is no safek even as to whether they are Jewish. He is attributing any legs to such a claim as coming from sources such as the New York Times. I also read a teshuva from Rav Moshe where he wrote that the Falashas should not be brought to Eretz Yisroel unless they first converted, prior to coming.

By the way, there are all sorts of groups around the world that claim they are real Jews. Do we merely accept such claims because they are made?

And thank you for explaining the background and usage of the term "Chareidi".

#4 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 08:09 PM

I said "at best" safek.The Radvaz (Divrei Dovd 5) writes that they are definitely Jews, from the tribe of Dan. Rav Moshe wrote that it is difficult to rely on this Radvaz because it is hard to know if his metzius was correct. But Rav Moshe was only saying it is a Safek, and for that reason they should not come to EY without conversion. See Teshuvos Yabiah Omer vol. 8 EH #11.

#5 danceInTheRain



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Posted 29 November 2011 - 03:29 AM

thank you very much for clarifiying the term "chareidi"
there is somthing i still dont understand from rav avigdor millers answer--

"After all, the Jews are a white people, you have to know. The Ethiopians are a black people. And, therefore, they're mnothing but a group of gentiles"

is it not possible that the ethiopians that claim to be jewish were indead jews that were exiled at some point and they became black just like many other jews took on the ethnic looks of the places they lived in for ex: yemenite jews became dark with black curley hair , russian jews became blond and so on.

#6 Menorah



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Posted 30 November 2011 - 08:33 PM

danceintherain: As far as I know, people's race doesn't change. They may get darker, but the the race remains. Blacks are the children of Chom, not Shem like Klal Yisroel. (Geirim are obviously a whole other matter, but irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion of heritage.)

#7 Soulrebel



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Posted 19 February 2012 - 10:55 PM

The Jews have only been considered "white" in the United States from around the 1940s and onwards. Before that, they were considered some kind of in-between between obviously white people (Anglo-Saxons, other NW European types) and black people (y'know, from Africa), the way many other groups at the time were (Greeks, Italians, Poles, Russians). So this whole "white" thing isn't all that scientific or antique.

Jews have DNA from lots of places. They look like the people of whatever country they resided in for a long time BECAUSE they have DNA from those places- it's not something in the water! There have been conversions, intermarriages and rapes throughout Jewish history, so it's not really that surprising that Jews look like where they're from. No Jew has a 100% "pure" Jewish genotype and while we have some common genetic characteristics, it's not enough to classify the Jews as a "race". This is why there is no Jewish race.

#8 taon



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Posted 20 February 2012 - 05:41 PM

True, but they aren't of mixed race there.