YSU Speaker Shares Black Hebrew Israeli Culture

By Amanda Joerndt

Rookamah Goldston, a Black Hebrew Israelite, educated students and community members on her unique background and culture on Jan. 24 at Youngstown State University.

Living by her rituals and community lifestyle, Goldston aims to bring recognition to her culture and educate people on the significance of her hometown Dimona, Israel.

Goldston was born in Detroit, but moved to Dimona with her mother at nine months old. As a member of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, she settled in the Tribe of Judah.

She recently moved to Atlanta, and said the adjustment was very striking for her.

“The biggest adjustment with coming from Israel to America, is the state of Israel is centered and focused on community and family. It’s just a part of the lifestyle,” Goldston said. “America is so individualized and Israel is very warm and connected. That was a huge adjustment for me.”

She educated students on her way of living, from her vegan diet to how the education system functions in Israel.

Photo by Tanner Mondok/The Jambar

Gon Erez, Israeli education and outreach coordinator at the Jewish Community Center, has worked in Youngstown for three years and brings speakers to the Mahoning Valley to enlighten people about the Israelite community.

Erez said bringing Goldston to YSU will help students understand what the Israeli culture is about, versus what they may see in the media.  

“I think it’s important because there is a lot of news about Israel in the media outlets and most of them are with politics and this draws lots of attention,” he said. “I’m here to show different aspects of [our community] and to show other parts of Israel while educating people about Israel.”

Goldston said her goal is for more people to understand the Israeli community, rituals and lifestyles.

“I want the students to understand that there are a lot of different communities within the Israelites and everything is about peace, harmony and love while living in laws,” she said. “I want our community to be more well-known and that there are options for anybody who may want to join.”

According to Erez, Goldston’s lecture put into perspective how different their culture is from the American lifestyle.

“I personally related a lot to her presentation. I loved her personal stories and hearing about the daily rituals, their diet and how their education system works,” he said. “As an Israeli, [our community] is just very different from my life here.”

The lecture was sponsored through the Pi Sigma Alpha (Alpha Alpha Rho) chapter of the National Political Science Honor Society.

Moatez Abdelrasoul, a junior political science and pre-law major and president of the honor society, said students should become more knowledgeable about the diverse communities in society today.

“I think it’s important that we have this discussion because [the Black Hebrew Israelites] community is not one that too many people know about,” he said. “I think this is a part of our duty to educate students on various cultures.”

Abdelrasoul said the honor society’s goal is to spread cultural diversity on campus.

“I think what we did accomplish today was allow the students to become informed on the unique community,” he said. “I think this is just a starting point, and it helps with our goal on diversity throughout our campus.”

According to Goldston, this is only the beginning for her journey to spread cultural awareness through the area.

“I hope to come back and we can have more then an hour with this type of discussion. To give a lifestyle that’s been going on for over 50 years in an hour, you only got a tiny slice,” she said.

“A presentation like this is worth two hours and give students time to ask the real questions.”