(JTA) — The leader of a prominent Black Hebrew Israelite organization has condemned last week’s attack on a kosher grocery in New Jersey after media reports emerged that one of the shooters was once a follower of the movement.
Rabbi Capers Shmuel Funnye, the Chicago-based head of the International Israelite Board of Rabbis, sought to distance himself from the Jersey City attackers, saying on Sunday that it was “unfortunate that the media uses the term ‘Black Hebrew Israelites’ without distinction as if the description is a one size fits all and it is absolutely not!”
“Many African-American Jews and Jews of color are threatened by these perpetrators, and by those against the actions of these perpetrators,” he said.
Uniquely among Hebrew Israelite rabbis Funnye, a cousin of former first lady Michelle Obama, has embraced mainstream Jewish beliefs and cultivated a relationship with the mainstream American Jewish community.
He wrote that his community was “gripped by sadness” over “the heinous actions of two disturbed individuals who cloaked themselves in anti-Semitism and hate-filled rhetoric” and “are in mourning with our fellow brethren in the Jewish community.”
“There are African, African-American and Jews of color who may use the term Hebrew or Israelite, we are not a fringe separatist group,” he continued, adding that “we don’t want to be seen as some radical fringe group with a false narrative because we are black and profess Judaism; we are Torah-oriented Jews.”
The shooters, identified as David Anderson and Francine Graham, killed four people, including two Hasidic Jews, Mindy Ferencz and Moshe Deutsch, when they attacked the JC Kosher Supermarket on Dec. 10. They had killed a police officer earlier at a nearby cemetery.
Read more about the Black Hebrew Israelites here.