The Israelites of Ohio

The Cleveland Jewish News has a piece on non-Jews who are adopting a Jewish identity, which has been a recent topic of this blog. Reporter Stephanie Graber names the phenomenon as the “Hebraic Roots” movement. The trend goes further than the Noachide movement, in which non-Jews keep deference to the “laws of Noah” and generally support Israel (I’ve fixed some typos in original):

These gentiles in Jewish clothing actually claim to be the “true Israelites” and direct, biological descendants of the lost tribe of Ephraim. Of course there are no DNA or blood tests to confirm this unsubstantiated claim.

Angus Wootten, one of the movement’s grandaddies, explains in his book Restoring Israel’s Kingdom how someone can find out if he or she is a biological member of the tribe of Ephraim: You simply “have a ‘conviction,’ a knowing that we know.”

…From their websites and links, it would appear there are about 30 Ephraim-style groups in Ohio alone, although it’s hard to get an exact count because they use so many names: Ephraimites, Hebraic Roots Christians, Lost Tribes, Northern Kingdom, Israelites, House of Israel, Messianic Christians, and House of Joseph.

…Tired of being “second-class citizens,” these self-proclaimed “Ephraimites” demand that Jews “recognize” them as “Israelites” and that would include rights to the Middle East real estate.

Well, there is a precedent in the case of the Black Hebrews, African-Americans who made the same claim some years ago (our friend Prophet Yahweh is to some extent related to that movement); in 2003 the group was given permanent residence status in Israel, with a view to citizenship. There’s also the recent case of the Mizo, a tribe of Indian animists that converted to Christianity in the 1890s; they also developed a Jewish identity, becoming the “Bnei Menashe”, and have now been officially declared to be a “Lost Tribe” by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. If not them, why not American Protestants? Perhaps part of the problem is that the “Hebraic Roots” movement is a bit too pushy:

In 1948, “…instead of naming this Jewish state ‘Judah’…they named it Israel,” Wooten writes.”“Now, in one fell swoop, the Jews grabbed the title back.” Wootten is appalled that these Jews had the chutzpah to name their country “Israel” when those of his “tribe” knew it was partially theirs!

Another issue is that these “Ephraimites” have a place for Jesus in their mythology, while the Mizo went through a Judaizing process before entering Israel. Graber includes an interview with Eddie Chumney, who tells us that Jesus’ Gospel was really about uniting the Israelites (Christians) with Judah, through Jewish law; this message was obscured by the Catholic Church. As I wrote on this blog last month, Jesus was also the stumbling block between one such “Hebraic Roots Movement” and Rabbi Michael Bar-Ron, who liaises with Noachides on behalf of the “Sanhedrin” recently set up by members of the Israeli far-right.

Garber also interviews a couple of Rabbis, who are not impressed with the movement’s practices, such as adopting the term “rabbi” for their leaders:

If someone were to call him or herself an attorney or physician and attempt to practice as such, that individual would be thrown in jail, says Rabbi [Tovia] Singer. Using the title “rabbi” won’t get someone thrown in jail, but it is consumer fraud, he adds.

Singer is a Jewish “counter-missionary”, who has had various clashes with Christian ministers and Messianic Jews. One of his main opponents, naturally, is Jews for Jesus; however, Jews for Jesus is not very happy with these “Ephramites” either, and has a page linking to various critiques of the movement. The British-Israelite element  particularly sets off alarm bells (although, weirdly, Bar-Ron is impressed with the idea, and it is promulgated by a Jew named Yair Davidy). Jews for Jesus quotes a report from the International Messianic Jewish Alliance:

Both groups (Anglo-Israelites and Ephraimites) build their theories on the mythic story of the ten “lost tribes” of the northern kingdom. Both groups put great store by suspect and contrived etymologies of English words based on Hebrew. Both groups claim pre-eminent, “first-born” status as purported heirs of Ephraim. Both share an innate hostility toward Roman Catholicism and Judaism. Both proclaim that the teaching they propound is a “mystery” revealed only through their teachers. Both argue that the lost tribes migrated to areas where they eventually became known as Saxons. Both groups make mention of the nobility of anglo-Saxons as evidence for their biblical, Israelite heritage.

…The movement is growing to the point that it now has some areas of overlap with the Christian Zionist movement as well as the Messianic Jewish movement. As a result of this, there are several spokespersons in both these groups who advance this teaching while maintaining primary affiliation either as Christian Zionists or as Messianic Jews.

Hostility to Judaism is also noted by Graber (another big difference with the Noachides):

[Wooten] seems to have particular disdain for the Orthodox, labeling them, among other things, as mean-spirited rock-throwers.

According to anti-cult pundit Rick Ross, these groups are “mushrooming”.

(Tipped from Cult News Network)