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Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation

Beth Ha-Tefilah Headquarters Synagogue


Commandment Keepers

5 Rabbi Successors Of Our Religious Legacy

Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation - Beth Ha-Tefilah Headquarters "Commandment Keepers" is 100 years old; one of the oldest Israelite synagogues in North America and the Western Hemisphere and has been led by a succession of rabbis since its inception in 1919.

"Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples."

“We believe the people Moses led out of Egypt were black"

Yoseh Ben Moshe Ben Yehuda "Chief Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew zt"I" (1892 - 1973), was a visionary, educator and prolific scholar who founded Commandment Keepers in Harlem, New York in 1919 during the height of the Marcus Garvey movement and the Harlem Renaissance. Chief Rabbi Matthew was Chief of the Ethiopian Hebrews of the Western Hemisphere. He was influenced by the late Rabbi Arnold Josiah Ford, the first black rabbi in America, a prominent member of Harlem's Black Jewish community, and a musical director to the great Marcus Garvey. The congregation under Rabbi Matthew's tutelage survived World War I, the Depression, World War II and the Civil Rights era. In 1942 Chief Rabbi Matthew published his Minute Book, a short history of the congregation’s evolution. In 1964 Howard Brotz, featured Chief Rabbi Matthew in his book entitled: The Black Jews of Harlem: Negro Nationalism and the Dilemmas of Negro Leadership (New York: The Free Press, 1964). In April 1968 the Sepia, a photojournalistic magazine, featured an article entitled: Black Jews of Harlem where Chief Rabbi Matthew stated: “We believe the people Moses led out of Egypt were black. It is from Addis Ababa that I derive my authority as head of the Black Jews in the United States. We are Africans or Ethiopian Hebrews. I am the only rabbi with credentials from Ethiopia, sanctioned by both the Chief Rabbi of the Falashas and the National Coptic Church of St. Michael." The Black Jews of Harlem, p. 22 In 1970 the congregation was featured in a scene from the 1970 motion picture The Angel Levine which starred Harry Belafonte and Zero Mostel. During his tenure, Chief Rabbi Matthew also founded the Royal Order and the Ethiopian Hebrew Rabbinical College. He had relationships with Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Percy Sutton, Congressman Charles Rangel, Sammy Davis, Jr., Harry Belafonte and Rabbi Irving Bloch.

Rabbi Chaim White zt"l (1923 - 1997) received spiritual guidance under the leadership of Chief Rabbi Matthew. He was one of the last rabbis ordained by Chief Rabbi Matthew prior to Chief Rabbi Matthews death in 1973. In 1975, Rabbi Chaim White zt"l succeeded Chief Rabbi Matthew zt"l as spiritual leader by majority vote from the congregation. Rabbi White is featured in a one-hour video documentary on the Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation entitled: The Commandment Keepers directed by Marlaine Glicksman.

Rabbi Yhoshua Ben Yahonatan zt"l was ordained by Chief Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew zt"l. He was President of the Ethiopian Hebrew Israelite Rabbinical Council. Rabbi Yahonatan succeeded Rabbi Chaim White zt"l. He retired as rabbi of Commandment Keepers in the year 2000.

Rabbi Zechariah Lewi zt"l succeeded Rabbi Yhoshua Ben Yahonatan zt"l in 2000. He spearheaded an operational plan embracing the vision, mission, values and objectives of the late Chief Rabbi Wentworth Arthur Matthew's legacy. Newark Rabbi mourned after fatal hit-and-run in Jersey City See;;;;

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Rabbi Dawid Ya'quob Zechariah HaLewi ibn Abraham

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