Need clarification about a bit of history from a family letter #general


I have a family letter dated January 1878 that includes some interesting genealogy information. But there is part of it that mentions "the Hebrew Israelites" that I don't understand and was hoping someone here could shed some light on. After telling a long and very colorful story about an ancestor named  Adam Koons who was described as a native of Holland and "a revolter in Germany" who "was one of the leaders of the rebellion against Church and State oppressions," the letter writer ends the letter with this: "Your ancestors on your father's side are of German extraction throughout and are more or less related to the Hebrew Israelites (I do not mean the Jews, for they are of Ishmaelite extraction, who were half-blooded Canaanites)." If I am related to the Hebrew Israelites, wouldn't I indeed have Jewish ancestors? Thank you in advance for your help.

Katy Koontz

Veronica Zundel

This sounds to me like someone who has somewhat wacky ideas about racial history. I would steer clear of them!
Veronica Zundel, London
Searching descendants of Josef Jakob Horoschowski b. 1905 Drohobych


Here's what came up when I checked for "Hebrew Israelites" on Wikipedia:
David Duke of KKK fame describes them as the Black counterpart to the Klan.
Somehow, I doubt that's what Katy's letter was about.
--Yale Zussman


This is pretty unusual and there is not much background information to clarify what the letter refers to.
Do you know anything about the letter writer? Was it written in Europe or the US and does it seem to actually be from the 1870s or does that seem unlikely to you? Also do you have anything to at all confirm anything else the letter writer claims? Is there black ancestry in the family? Did you or any family members do DNA tests?
Around that time there were black groups forming in the US who called themselves Hebrew Israelite but they obviously would not be connected to any German ethnicity. It could be there was some other group in Europe that was being refered to. This sounds suspiciously like things I've heard from the more radical current Black Hebrew Israelites but I would have thought certain theories were popularized much more recently, which is why I ask if this is possibly newer than the 1870s.
In short there's no reason to assume from this that there is any ancestry that would usually be considered Jewish since the writer clearly says not Jewish. The question of what is considered a Jew is not a topic for this forum but I think it's safe to say that the Black Hebrew Israelites would not be considered Jewish. This is completely different from Black Jews who have converted at some point in their ancestry, or the Ethiopian Beta Israel community. Until we know which Hebrew Israelite group is intended it won't be possible to reach conclusions based on the letter.

Binyamin Kerman
Baltimore MD

SPIELER Lodz, Zloczew, Belchatow


Before jumping to conclusions of Black Hebrew Israelite relevancy, I would read the letter bearing in mind that the writer possesses common 19th Century Germanic-Dutch prejudices.
In many civil records of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the 1800's that I have seen, in small towns where the Jewish Community did not maintain its own Metrical Registration books but whose birth, marriage and deaths were registered in the town's, in the column of vallása-religion they would write "Izraelite". In other words Israelite was a common term then in the same manner today we use the word Jewish.
The famous Jewish orthodox newspaper "Der Israelit" published by Rabbi Marcus Lehman of Mainz from the 1860's until 1905 is another example of usage of the term  Israelite.
It is possible that when he writes by "Your ancestors on your father's side are of German extraction throughout and are more or less related to the Hebrew Israelites (I do not mean the Jews, for they are of Ishmaelite extraction,)
He is saying that your father's side is German some of whom are Jewish, however in his view not related to Middle Eastern Jews.
in other words, they are German cultured Jews with no visible connection to the Middle Eastern Jews of yore.
In larger cities like Berlin and Budapest, converting and becoming baptized was a popular thing done by thousands of German Jews, especially in the wake of Pogroms and persecutions.
Hitler on the other hand equated all people with Jewish blood, paternal or maternal, no matter how miniscule, and was determined to kill us all.
In answer to your concluding question, according to our orthodox Jewish Standards as mandated by the Torah 3400 years ago, our Jewishness is determined by our maternal lineage.
So as you research your paternal lineage going back through the generations, if someone's mother was Jewish and then again her mother was Jewish and so on... than you get the idea. The generation where a Jewish Man marries a none Jewish woman,  than their children are not considered Jewish by our traditions. 

Shimon Sporn of Beit Shemesh, Israel

Researcher # 57380

Perl, Margolies, Itzkowitz, Lehrer families from Kisvarda, Fenyeslitke, Ustilug,

Leher- Rozenberg families of Hrubieszów Galicia Edmondton, London

Sporn families of Marosorozfalu, Rusii Munti, Saszreghin, Kajla, Besztercze-Naszod

Abraham & Stuhlman families from Pecsetszeg & Kozarvar

angel kosfiszer

I have not looked up any documentation or literature but when I saw "Ishmaelite extraction" I realized that the writer, being a native of Holland, may have been talking about Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews. Ishmael, one of Abraham sons in the Bible, is associated in Judaism with Islam. Sephardic Jews lived in Islamic governed or with Islamic people, around the Mediterranean, specially after the Spanish/Portuguese expulsion around 1942. Many Sephardic people went to live in what is now Holland (famous Baruch Spinoza from Amsterdam was descendant of a Sephardic family) because they were not discriminated as much as in the Catholic countries of Europe. The writer was trying to make the distinction of the main branches of Judaism and was definitely of Ashkenazic extraction. Rivalry between the 2 Jewish main groups may have influenced his way of writing giving the impression that they were not "totally Jewish", like he was. Just a thought.

Angel Kosfiszer

Richardson, Texas