Legendary NBA player Amar’e Stoudemire, who converted to Orthodox Judaism in Israel in 2020, defended the Black Hebrew Israelite ideology in a video statement posted to his social media accounts.
Stoudemire defended rapper Kanye West and suspended basketball player Kyrie Irving, who recently took to social media to further claims that black Americans are the “real Jews.”
Although Stoudemire underwent a formal conversion according to Jewish law, he urged the media to lay off West and Irving for promoting the sect.
Stoudemire’s video statement came after West criticized him for an ESPN appearance, in which he called on Kyrie to apologize for posting a link to a video which is hateful towards Jewish people.
“Kanye tweeted something about me, as if I’m turning my back on the community, as if I’m advising Kyrie to apologize for being a Hebrew Israelite,” Stoudemire said in the video, which he deleted from his Twitter page several hours later.
“I would never ask Kyrie to apologize for being an Israelite, are you kidding me? I dedicated about 20-plus years of my life on researching and learning who we are as a people.”
The Black Hebrew Israelites are a fringe group unaffiliated with mainstream Judaism who claim that black Americans are the true descendants of the ancient Hebrews of the Bible.
The sect’s members have repeatedly harassed and physically attacked Orthodox and other identifiable Jews in New York, claiming that Ashkenazi Jews in particular are “impostors.”
In 2019, a man affiliated with the Black Hebrew Israelites murdered four people, including a police officer, in a New Jersey kosher supermarket.
“Black Hebrew Israelites claim to be from the Twelve Tribes of Israel, who will one day be given dominion by God to rule over the Earth,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told CNN in 2019.
“They believe that Jewish people are ‘fake Jews’ imposters who will be supplanted by them in the future,” Beirich added. “They also believe that God will make whites, who these groups consider spawns of the devil, into their slaves, forced into eternal servitude.”
There are no genetic or historical accounts linking Black Hebrew Israelites to Ethiopian, Ashkenazi, Sephardic, or Mizrahi Jews. The group engages in practices that are not condoned by Jewish law, such as polygamy.