Black Spirituality Religion : The Commandments Keepers

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by cherryblossom, Jun 23, 2009.

  1. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    The Destruction of Commandment Keepers, Inc. 1919-2007
    by Rabbi Sholomo Ben Levy


    The traditional day of mourning for Jews is the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av because on it the temple that King Solomon built in Jerusalem was destroyed first in 586 BCE and then again in 70 AD. Normally the month of Av occurs in August. However, in 2007 the month of Av came in April for members of the Israelite community because that is when our oldest congregation was destroyed. Psalm 137 says, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget (her skill). Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not.” Similarly, I say if we forget how this once great congregation came to such a pitiful end then we have no reason for having a brain or a heart. Therefore, I have written this article as an epitaph upon the tomb stone of Commandment Keepers Congregation.

    Thousands of Israelites passed through its doors and almost every black rabbi in America owes his existence to its presence. Books, articles, and film documentaries have been made about this most famous Israelite place of worship. It was built by a young man named Wentworth Arthur Matthew who at the age of twenty-seven stood on a ladder in the streets of Harlem telling its residents that they were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and needed to return to their God. In 1919 he assembled a hand full of men and women who believed enough, loved enough, and were willing to sacrifice enough to build a congregation for God’s honor and glory. Over the next eighty-eight years of its life it would be located at several places in Harlem. When my parents joined it in 1957 it was located above a drug store at 87 West 128th street. In 1962 it moved into a mansion built in 1890 for John Dwight, one of the founders of the Arm and Hammer Company.

    In 1942 Rabbi Matthew published a memoir called the Minute Book, it was a summary of the early years of the congregation. In it he described those first decades as the “most gigantic struggle of any people for a place under the sun.”1 By this he was referring to the other black synagogues that did not survive the Great Depression such Beth B’nai Avraham and the Moorish Zionist Temple founded by Rabbi Arnold Ford and Rabbi Mordica Herman respectively. Even Commandment Keepers had lost a residence but the congregation—which is always more than the building that houses it—survived. Their faith in God and love for each other allowed them to overcome forces that had destroyed even Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association.

    When the congregation moved into its final home, Rabbi Matthew himself painted the number “one” on the vestibule door. In part it represented the address, 1 West 123rd Street, but on a deeper level it represented Rabbi Matthew’s dream that Commandment Keepers would be the first (and possibly best) of many black synagogues to follow. In fact, some of its stationery referred to the congregation as “Headquarters” and it was thought of as such by many of Matthew’s students throughout New York and Chicago until its decline. Moreover, in the minds of many people outside of our community, Commandment Keepers Congregation was synonymous with Black Jews. Because of its unique history it was the only black synagogue in the United States that was recognized as an historic landmark.....

    http://www.blackjews.org/Essays/DestructionofCommandmentKeepers.html
     
  2. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    http://thecommandmentkeepers.net/thefilm.htm


    THE COMMANDMENT KEEPERS
    is a one-hour documentary on the Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew congregation, a highly observant African American synagogue founded in 1919 in Harlem, where it still carries on today, more than four generations later. The film is the dramatic story of a community caught between two worlds, Black and Jewish, a minority's minority, struggling to hold on to its faith and identity despite the obstacle's. A portrait and history of the community, which now encompasses a rabbinic institute and sister synagogues nationally, THE COMMANDMENT KEEPERS challenges stereotypes and the myth of monolithic race and religion.
     
  3. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    http://harlembespoke.blogspot.com/2010/03/walk-new-signs-at-ethiopian-synagogue.html
     
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