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Chosen PeopleThe Rise of American Black Israelite Religions$
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Jacob S. Dorman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780195301403

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195301403.001.0001

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“Our Only Hope, Our Only Salvation as a Race”

“Our Only Hope, Our Only Salvation as a Race”

Rabbi Arnold Josiah Ford, Ethiopianism, and African American Settlers in Ethiopia

(p.113) 4 “Our Only Hope, Our Only Salvation as a Race”
Chosen People

Dorman Jacob S.

Oxford University Press

The interwar era produced some forms of Black Israelite religion that incorporated rituals that can be called Judaic, in that they were modeled on contemporary Judaism, and not simply Hebraic, in the mold of the Hebrew Bible. Two prominent proponents of these Judaic forms of Black Israelite faiths in New York were Rabbi Arnold Josiah Ford and Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew. This chapter shows that Ford was a Barbadian musician who became the choirmaster at the Universal Negro Improvement Association's headquarters in New York City and an intimate of its leader, Marcus Garvey, before founding a synagogue in New York and leading a group of Black pioneers to establish a “colony” in Ethiopia. His colony failed and he perished during the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935, but his ideas and his example helped inspire future Black Jewish congregations in the United States and played an indirect role in the rise of the Black Israelite religion of Rastafarianism in Jamaica. As an exemplar of “Black Zionism,” Rabbi Ford demonstrates the longstanding transnationalism of the African diaspora, and the way ideas, like goods and bodies, have transcribed multidirectional circuits across the globe.

Keywords:   Black Israelites, Black Jews, Rabbi Arnold Josiah Ford, Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew, Rastafarianism, Black Zionism

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