70-member Black Community in New Jersey Preparing to Emigrate En Masse to Israel

A 70-member black Jewish community here is preparing to emigrate en masse to Israel and is also prepared for the possibility of being rejected there, according to its leader and spokesman, Rabbi Ahel Respes of the community’s synagogue, Adat Beyt Moshe. Rabbi Respes, who taught himself to speak and read Hebrew, believes his followers might be rejected in Israel because, in his opinion, the white Jewish community here has questioned their credentials as Jews. Rabbi Respes said that white Jews are constantly demanding that black Jews prove their ancestral identity, but that he believes there is no reason for one to display evidence beyond his conviction that he is Jewish. He said he would allow his seven children to attend a white yeshiva but would be afraid of the harassment they would be subjected to because of their color. Nevertheless, the 50-year-old rabbi and 12 congregants plan to make an exploratory trip to Israel in the fall to get information beyond their present “second-hand” knowledge of the country. “If we are rejected.” he said, “we won’t argue.” The black congregation observes the traditional rites of Judaism but does not consider itself Reform, Conservative or Orthodox. Rabbi Respes claims that many times he has been the object of divine inspiration, with voices and angels delivering commands and messages. He acknowledges, however, that traditional Judaism denies the possibility of divine revelation.

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