“When I entered the [white] synagogue, it disrupted the whole service. Everybody stared at me,” recalls Sheila, a Hebrew in her late 50s and a member of the Black, Jewish Commandment Keepers Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation. “I resent when everyone asks me how long I’ve been Jewish. I’ve been Jewish as long as I can remember.”


THE COMMANDMENT KEEPERS is a feature documentary on a highly observant synagogue founded in 1919 by Rabbi Wentworth A. Matthew in Harlem, where it carried on more than 90 years. The film is the dramatic story of a people, caught between two often-conflicting worlds, Black and Jewish, and their struggle to hold on to their faith and identity despite the obstacles. In contemporary interviews and footage and archival film and photos, and with a soundtrack by Sussan Deyhim, the explores the history of a community emblematic of the Black and Jewish diasporas and now consisting of a rabbinic institute, more than six sister synagogues locally, and even more worldwide. THE COMMANDMENT KEEPERS is a story never told before that challenges the widely held assumption that skin color somehow determines spirituality. In this community’s struggle, faith is more than skin-deep. — © Marlaine Glicksman


For trailer and more information: THE COMMANDMENT KEEPERS documentary Web site
Click for: “Thou Shalt Not Forget the Jews of Harlem,” by Eve M. Kahn, The New York Times
Click for: “New Film Commandment Keepers Explores History of Black Jews” by Claire Hoffman, HEEB Magazine