Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation

Beth Shalom, formally Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, is a Black Hebrew Israelite[1][2][3] synagogue in Chicago, Illinois. The congregation leader is Rabbi Capers Funnye. Assistant rabbis are Avraham Ben Israel and Joshua V. Salter.[4]

The congregation, which has about 200 members, is mostly African American.[5][6] The congregation was started by Rabbi Horace Hasan from Bombay, India, in 1918 as the Ethiopian Hebrew Settlement Workers Association,[7] and was influenced by Wentworth Arthur Matthew's Commandment Keepers.[5][6]

Along with African-Americans, members include Hispanics and whites who were born Jews, as well as former Christians and Muslims. As is traditional with Judaism, they do not seek converts, and members must study Judaism for a year before undergoing a traditional conversion requiring men to be ritually circumcised and women to undergo ritual immersion in a mikvah.[7]

The congregation is "somewhere between Conservative and Modern Orthodox" with distinctive African-American influences; while men and women sit separately as in Orthodox synagogues, a choir sings spirituals to the beat of a drum.[7] It follows traditional Jewish liturgy and laws, including Sabbath and "a modified version of kosher dietary laws."[8]

The congregation is currently housed in a former synagogue purchased from a congregation of Ashkenazi Lithuanian Jews, on South Kedzie Street in the Marquette Park neighborhood, on Chicago's South Side.[7][8]

External linksEdit


  1. ^ Kestenbaum, Sam (2015-10-15). "With new chief rabbi, black Hebrew-Israelites make bid to enter the Jewish mainstream". Haretz. Retrieved 2020-01-22.
  2. ^ Sokol, Sam (2019-12-17). "Black Hebrew Israelite Leader Condemns Jersey City Shooting". Haretz. Retrieved 2020-01-22.
  3. ^ Washington, Robin (2019-12-18). "Who Black Hebrew Israelites Are—And Who They Are Not". Retrieved 2020-01-22.
  4. ^ "Divine Law or Sexism?". National Public Radio. 2007-07-12. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  5. ^ a b Chireau, Yvonne (2000). "Black Culture and Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism, 1790–1930, an Overview". In Yvonne Patricia Chireau; Nathaniel Deutsch (eds.). Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 48. ISBN 0-19-511257-1.
  6. ^ a b Angell, Stephen W. (Spring 2001). "Yvonne Chireau and Nathaniel Deutsch, eds , Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism". The North Star: A Journal of African American Religious History. 4 (2). Archived from the original on 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  7. ^ a b c d Koppel, Niko (2008-03-16). "Black Rabbi Reaches Out to Mainstream of His Faith". The New York Times.
  8. ^ a b Chafets, Zev (2009-04-05). "Obama's Rabbi". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-05.

Coordinates: 41°46′24″N 87°42′09″W / 41.7733333°N 87.7025°W / 41.7733333; -87.7025 (Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken)