Rudy Rochman: 'There's some truth' to Kyrie Irving-shared antisemitic documentary

Rochman later posted a video clarifying his position, saying that antisemitism and violence from Black Hebrew Israelite groups must be condemned.

Rudy Rochman talking to students at Columbia University during an event organized in response to Israel Apartheid week (photo credit: STUDENTS SUPPORTING ISRAEL)
Rudy Rochman talking to students at Columbia University during an event organized in response to Israel Apartheid week

Jewish Israeli rights activist Rudy Rochman came under fire recently on social media after seemingly defending Kyrie Irving and the Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America documentary that has been the subject of extensive controversy in recent weeks.

In a video clip circulating the Internet, which was shared originally by Rochman himself, he can be seen speaking about the topic of Black Hebrew Israelites with comedian Godfrey and Jewish rapper Kosher Dillz. Since it was first posted, the video has gotten over 26,000 views on Instagram alone, as well as over 100,000 views on Youtube.

"They [Black Hebrew Israelites] are waking up to their identity," Rochman said in the video. "When they are coming to other Jews and say, 'My brother. I finally found out who I am. Come, let's unite together,' and most Jews, who have never heard this idea because a lot of them were raised in Europe, and have a lot of European mentality. They tend to say, 'You're not Jewish. You're African. We've never heard of such a thing.'"

If you look at Kyrie's documentary there's a lot of truths to it. It falls on deaf ears because there's a lot of false things in there as well."

Rudy Rochman

"To someone who has been hurt for hundreds of years, with generational trauma in their DNA, they could think, 'If they were really Hebrews, they would accept me. It must be that they're not the real Jews,'" Rochman said, offering a justification as to why Black Hebrew Israelites believe that they are the true Jews. 

"If you look at Kyrie's documentary, there's a lot of truths to it," he added. "It falls on deaf ears because there's a lot of false things in there as well."

NBA star Kyrie Irving was suspended from The Nets for several weeks in November after promoting the 2015 book turned movie in 2018, Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America, a documentary that claims to prove that Black people are the true Israelites and how their identities were stolen from them by Jewish people.

"It's not if one says that they are Jewish/Israelite/Hebrew that this automatically makes them one," Rochman wrote in the post attached to the video. "However, we cannot ignore the fact, and those who are unaware must learn that many slaves taken from Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean Islands were specifically from Israelite Tribes.

"Not all [Black Hebrew Israelites] are angry and violent, not all believe in Jesus and not all have adopted replacement theology as their form of therapy," he added.

Criticism of Rudy Rochman's statement on Black Hebrew Israelites

Many of the comments underneath the video were highly critical of Rochman, with some warning him that he was heading down a slippery slope.

"While I highly respect most of your other work, this video was simply not it," one person commented. "You've legitimized Black Hebrew Israelites as being Jewish, which has been proven that they're not. BHI are literally beating Jews in broad daylight."

However, other people came out in support of Rochman's comments, including a Jewish rights activist who explained that "so many Jews are unaware of this painful part of our past," adding that "this is an integral part of our history which we all need to be aware of and it organically connects us with other groups who share a similar history. We are a diverse tribe with unique experiences and it's time to teach the world about who we are and in the process, connect more to ourselves."

Rudy Rochman clarifies Black Hebrew Israelite comments

On Tuesday evening, Rochman took to his Instagram once more, attempting to clarify his comments from the previous day, sharing a video from Ohr Torah Stone's Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum, who serves as a judge in Israel's rabbinical court system. In the video, Birnbaum discusses the lost Tribes of Israel, to whom Black Hebrew Israelites claim that they belong.

Clarifying further in the caption of the video, Rochman says that he does not believe that someone is Jewish just because they claim to be, as Black Hebrew Israelites do.

However, he says, "those who go out of their way to deny, reject and diminish the identity/experience of other Children of Israel, without ever researching engaging with these communities or knowing anything about the topic should become more open-minded as the topic becomes more accessible and these narratives and detailed histories are brought to light."

"Self-hating Jews are not Jews who reject themselves. They are Jews who reject Jews."

Rudy Rochman

Addressing the criticism he faced for seemingly defending Black Hebrew Israelites and their antisemitic ideology, Rochman stated that "Black Hebrew Israelites are not a monolith, there are many different groups and ideologies that identify with the general umbrella term," adding that he firmly believes that those who call for violence against Jews must be condemned. In fact, there are even Black Hebrew Israelites living in Israel, mostly around Dimona, many of whom were even born here and serve in the IDF.

However, he adds, people have become blinded by the bigotry of the Black Hebrew Israelite groups and are therefore ignoring "the truth behind the Israelite heritage of groups like Igbo, Lemba, Beni Annousim."

"Not too long ago, Jews were denying Ethiopian Jews for not having DNA or fitting into supremacist standards," he continued, in his defense of himself. "I grew up thinking, 'how could people deny such communities without having looked into it themselves? Having gone there? Having done the research?' Now I see what the generations before us went through. Self-hating Jews are not Jews who reject themselves. They are Jews who reject [other] Jews."

Despite his follow-up video, many people are still unhappy with the activist. 

"Rudy Rochman has 112K followers on Instagram alone," one such Twitter user said regarding his comments. "He’s one of the most well-known 'Jewish activists' in the world. And yet, Rudy frequently espouses disinformation about Judaism and Jewish history. Make no mistake—distorting our peoplehood and our history IS antisemitism."